Food banks braced for busiest summer

School holidays should be about happy memories but for many children they are filled with ‘hunger, pain and worry’

Tes Reporter

Food banks braced for busiest summer

Emergency food parcels handed out to children in Scotland in the summer rose by more than a fifth last summer, new figures indicate.

The Trussell Trust, which operates 135 food banks across Scotland, said 6,551 parcels with enough food for three days were given to children in Scotland during last year's summer holidays.

It is a 21 per cent increase on the 5,412 distributed in the school holidays the previous summer.

The trust said overall food bank use in Scotland rose by 23 per cent in 2018-19 and predicts this trend will continue, prompting fears this summer will be its busiest to date as families who qualify for free school meals struggle to feed their children over the holidays.

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Ahead of the summer break starting, the trust wants people to check what items their local food bank requires and consider donating.

It has stressed food banks are not a long-term solution for people struggling to afford food and called for benefit reform.

Laura Ferguson, operations manager for Scotland at the Trussell Trust, said: "No charity can replace the dignity of having enough money for the basics but more and more families across Scotland are struggling to make ends meet, unable to afford food and facing hunger as a result. This isn't right.

"Food banks do all they can to help families over the summer, with many running holiday clubs to support parents who find that their income simply won't stretch to meet the extra pressure of missing free school meals or paying for extra childcare during the holidays.

"But ultimately, we should all be protected from needing a food bank's help, no matter the time of the year."

The Scottish government has taken action, spending £340,000 so that six charities can offer children breakfast, healthy snacks and a hot lunch, as well as activities during the school holidays.

They say that 46,500 kids are set to benefit in Scotland and that the budget to help families struggling with food has gone up from £500,000 last year to £2 million in 2019-20.

The government also been praised for its “game changing” £10 a week supplement for low-income families to tackle child poverty. 

However, Ms Ferguson said: "While it's great to see the Scottish Government pledging to tackle holiday hunger, food banks and other emergency food provision cannot, and must not, be a long term to solution to poverty."

Scottish Labour meanwhile has said that it would roll out programmes like North Lanarkshire’s Club365 – which provides free meals all year round – and “prioritise ending the scandal of children in Scotland going without a decent meal at weekends or during the school holidays”.

Scottish Labour's eradication of poverty and inequality spokeswoman, Elaine Smith, said: “School holidays should create some of the happiest memories our children have, but for thousands of kids and families it is a period filled with hunger, pain and worry. 

“The SNP government must do more to tackle holiday hunger, or their vow to tackle child poverty will be another promise they have broken to the people of Scotland.”

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