Nearly four million children are living in poverty in the UK, many of them in families and children facing food poverty. No child should go hungry and at the 2017 General Election I stood on a manifesto which committed to introduce free school meals for all primary school children, to benefit the educational attainment and health of all children. Hunger is a particular problem over school holidays for those children who normally access free school meals.
The All-Party Parliamentary Group on Hunger recently released a report which found that around three million children face hunger during the school holidays. This is unacceptable. The report also found that families were more likely to use foodbanks during the summer holidays compared with other parts of the year. The Trussell Trust, which supports a number of foodbanks around the country, states that the use of food banks remains at a record high, with new analysis pointing to an increase in the number of food packages given to families with children over the summer.
I have consistently raised this issue in Parliament and made a film, Breadline Britain, warning that government policies are making matters worse. You can read more about this and view the film by clicking here.
The government confirmed it had made no assessment, before this year’s school summer holidays, of the number of children who were at risk of experiencing hunger over the holidays.
My colleague Frank Field MP has now presented the School Holidays (Meals and Activities) Bill which is scheduled to have its Second Reading debate in the House of Commons on January 19 2018. This Bill seeks to require local authorities to facilitate the delivery of programmes that provide free meals and activities for children during school holidays. I fully support these objectives and I will follow the progress of this Bill closely.
More needs to be done to address child hunger and I will continue to press the government to bring forward a new strategy to tackle child poverty.