In communities across the UK, parents have been the shock absorbers preventing the pandemic impacting even harder on children. So as restrictions once again increase, we need to build family resilience, not leave the poorest to sink into deeper hardship.

As of January 2020, in addition to school year groups where eligibility is universal, 1.4m children qualified for free school meals in England - or 17.3% of the school population. Extending free school meals across the UK will help families and children right now and we’d urge the government to reconsider their position to prevent children from going hungry.

School meals in term-time are a critical lifeline for families living on low incomes. In holiday times, when these meals aren’t available, children go hungry. No child should experience hunger. It harms child development, concentration and mental health. There is every reason to extend free school meal provision to avoid child hunger and reduce the stresses on families. 

“Many of our families are living in poverty and the children are suffering. Many of our parents are not feeding themselves in order to feed their children, and many are accessing the food bank to support their family. Many of our children are turning up at school and nursery hungry, and do not have breakfast.”

Feedback from one Local Home-Start

Local Home-Starts see first-hand in their communities the impact poverty has on a family’s capacity to cope. We have seen a sharp increase in demand for foodbanks even before 7 months of lockdown. As we approach winter, families living on low incomes will be forced to choose between heating or eating.

Now is the time to act to offer some chance of food security into the family home for children. Because childhood can’t wait.