The number of children getting summer holiday meals via the UK’s largest food redistribution charity has more than doubled this year.
FareShare, which redistributes surplus food to 200 charities and organisations providing summer schemes, is feeding at least 50,000 children each week across the UK this month – up 150 per cent from 20,000 in 2017.
The rise follows the charity’s ActiveAte campaign to raise awareness of holiday hunger and increase its provision of meals for children at risk of food poverty this summer.
ActiveAte projects not only provide food but also activities such as sport or drama, to help children keep active and develop their skills.
There has been an increasing awareness of holiday hunger. A Tes investigation earlier this year revealed that more and more teachers were coming across pupils who were not getting enough to eat at home.
Teachers have reported finding pupils rummaging in bins for scraps of food or stashing free fruit in their pockets.
Lindsay Boswell, chief executive of FareShare, said: “For parents of children who normally receive free school meals, the summer can be a difficult time – with the strain of added costs for food, activities and childcare meaning families can often struggle to provide food.
The growing problem of holiday hunger
“ActiveAte is our nationwide programme to address this issue, and this year’s figures in comparison to 2017 demonstrate the glaring need for food provision in our communities across the UK."
Last year, FareShare redistributed surplus food to 200 organisations that were catering for children over the school holidays, but, following a recruitment drive, more than 350 holiday programmes across the UK have now signed up to receive regular food deliveries.
It also has a separate scheme, FareShareGo, which brings together charities and local retailers to reduce in-store surplus food. When this is included, the number of children receiving food each week rises to 160,000.
The charity is now appealing to the public for donations to meet the demand.
Perry Star, manager at Cauis House in Battersea, London – a youth club that scales up its provision over the summer holidays to meet the extra demand – said: “Although we support children throughout the year, we know that the summer holidays can be a particularly difficult time.
"Many parents often struggle to provide healthy meals due to time or cost constraints, and through this food we’re able to ensure children are well fed with a nutritious diet. Without this support, it is likely some would be at risk of malnutrition.”
The government has also announced that it is spending £2 million on tackling holiday hunger this year through supporting a number of organisations that are providing children, teenagers and parents with activities such as drama, football or arts – each project includes at least one free meal for each child.