The recession has hit us all, but some of us more than others. The harsh reality is that Britain’s poorest children are going hungry and missing regular meals. Nearly 110,000 UK adults and children received food aid between April and September 2012 – and the figure is expected to rise.
Cereal, toast, porridge, fruit, eggs? Breakfast. But sadly, it seems that many children don’t know what it is, as some shocking figures reveal.
Almost four out of five teachers have reported an increase in the number of pupils arriving at school hungry over the last twelve months.
Half those teachers put that increase in pupil hunger down to “financial hardship” caused by rising living costs, government spending cuts and unemployment, according to a survey from Kellogg’s.
Emergency food aid is now becoming increasingly common, with the number of Brits turning to food banks doubling in the last six months.
In 2008-09, 26,000 Brits relied on food banks. This year, it’s predicted that 200,000 people will be calling on their services.
So what’s causing this increase? According to the Trussel Trust (which runs 172 UK food banks) almost a third of those referred for emergency food aid said it was due to a delay in accessing benefits – a figure that has more than doubled since the recession began in 2009.
Breakfast clubs can prove an effective way of tackling this shocking hunger that so many children in the UK are suffering. But unfortunately the number of breakfast clubs in England is declining, with 40% of local authorities reporting a decrease over the past year.
“Almost a third of those referred for emergency food aid said it was due to a delay in access to benefits”
We expect our teachers to provide our children with education, knowledge and creativity, but it seems that their support is also now extending to food handouts. A sixth of teachers spend up to £25 a month of their own money to provide hungry pupils with food, according to Kellogg’s survey.
Shadow children’s minister Sharon Hodgson Hodgson has called for the government to provide more support for breakfast clubs: “It is a shocking indictment of this government that in 21st century Britain young children are forced to rely on teacher handouts.”
In response to the survey’s findings, a Department for Education spokesperson said: “It is worrying to hear of any child going hungry. But we have a protected schools budget and also set up the pupil premium. This means schools with the most disadvantaged children get extra cash – a total of £2.5 billion a year by 2014-15.
“We are currently looking at the role that food and cooking plays in schools and how this can help to get our children eating well.”
The question is, will this be enough to stop more and more children not just going to bed hungry – but waking up hungry as well?