Thousands of free meals offered to children to stave off holiday hunger


Children preparing a meal at Manorfield School's holiday club

More than 20,000 free meals will be given to children taking part in council funded summer activities in an effort to reduce holiday hunger.

Food poverty is becoming a bigger problem across the country and Tower Hamlets is no different. Currently 35 per cent of children in the borough are entitled to free school meals and during the summer holidays many parents face the problem of putting healthy but affordable food on the table.

Children living in food poverty are less likely to do well in school, and they are more likely to be obese, suffer health conditions and mental health issues.

Tower Hamlets Council is supporting families so their children can have nutritious meals during the summer holidays through its holiday childcare scheme and Fit and Fed programme.

On Monday, 11 holiday clubs opened in Tower Hamlets schools providing a free breakfast and lunch for 440 children per day. The clubs will open for 18 days over the school summer break. The initiative is a partnership with Morgan Stanley’s Healthy Cities scheme in five of the 11 schools.

The council is also running a Fit and Fed scheme with sports charity Street Games and Fare Share, a charity which helps tackle hunger and food waste. Fit and Fed will see around 5,000 meals offered to youngsters participating in free summer activities put on by the council.

Tower Hamlets Council is also committed to supporting families to receive meals in other ways. Despite cuts to the council’s funding Mayor John Biggs has protected universal free school meal provision for all primary schools.

Almost 34,000 children receive free school meals in Tower Hamlets. The borough has also been recognised by Sustain in its London Food Poverty Profile as being in the top five boroughs in London in taking action against food poverty.

Mayor of Tower Hamlets John Biggs said:

“No child should go hungry during the summer holidays. Due to the high cost of living in London, families can struggle to cover the additional costs associated with the school holidays. 

“As well as continuing to fund universal free school meals to all primary school pupils in term time, we are also ensuring through the Fit and Fed programme that children are provided with healthy food, activities and fun in the summer holidays.”

Tower Hamlets is one of five London boroughs signed up to the Greater London Authority’s (GLA) Food Poverty Action Plan, which directly addresses the Mayor of London’s ambition to tackle food poverty and reduce Londoners’ reliance on food banks. 

Last year, residents joined the council and stakeholders including community groups to draft a food poverty action plan for Tower Hamlets, which helped secure £5,000 in funding. 

Councillor Denise Jones, chair of the Tower Hamlets Health and Wellbeing Board and Cabinet Member for Adults, Health and Wellbeing said:

“School holidays are a time of leisure and enjoyment, but for many bring additional pressures. Our holiday programmes will hopefully encourage more young people to engage in sport and exercise and will also support low income families who may struggle to provide their children with three meals a day.”

Anna Feuchtwang, chair of the End Child Poverty coalition and Chief Executive of the National Children’s Bureau, commented:

“Holiday hunger, when children lose the lunch provided by school, is an urgent problem and a direct consequence of rising levels of child poverty across the UK.

“Food banks are now critical sources of support and without urgent action increasing numbers of families will be reliant on the generosity of the public to feed their children.”

Posted on Friday 3rd August 2018