Tackling child food poverty & holiday hunger

22 May 2019

By Gill Corlett

Child food poverty Initiatives

At The Felix Project we have twin objectives; to reduce the scandalous levels of food waste and to address the equally concerning levels of hunger and food poverty. Increasingly, we are working with partner charities and schools and turning our attention to child food poverty.

UK Child Food Poverty

The latest statistics show us that one in three (4.1 million) children live in poverty in the UK, with an estimated 2.5 million living in food insecure households, and City Hall tells us that over 600,000 of them live in London. Despite record employment, the proportion of children in poverty with working parents has now reached an all-time high of 72%. Two decades ago that was barely half. (Joseph Rowntree Foundation, 29/3/19).

The Children’s Future Food Inquiry

Launched recently by the Food Foundation this inquiry explains that “food insecurity carries a huge human cost which children are likely to bear for the rest of their lives, affecting their relationships, attainment, mental and physical health. This scale of problem requires systemic action, not sticking plaster projects”

Data from the National Diet and Nutrition Survey show that the children in the poorest households are eating substantially less fruit and vegetables, with a shocking 0.3% of the most deprived children eating the recommended amount of fresh fruit and vegetables versus 8.4% of all children.

Witnesses told the Inquiry that avoiding food waste was a top priority for low income families and so this means parents frequently stick to a narrow range of food which they know their children will eat. Moreover, they reported that parents often prioritised their children’s food consumption over their own and reported having a smaller portion or skipping meals altogether so their children could eat.

Shockingly, in a 2018 government inquiry into hunger, food insecurity and malnutrition in the UK it was reported that:

‘the average’ situation in the UK hides large variations according to socioeconomic status, and two juxtaposed challenges: high and growing levels of obesity and diet related disease, and among the highest levels of household food insecurity in Europe. These challenges are underpinned by a food system which is struggling to provide healthy, sustainable, diverse diets for everyone in the UK"

Childhood Obesity

The rising tide of child obesity in the lowest income families is also strongly linked to food poverty. In England 12% of 4-5-year olds in deprived families are obese . As the Food Foundation say Food insecurity carries a huge human cost which children are likely to bear for the rest of their lives, affecting their relationships, attainment, mental and physical health”

What are The Felix Project doing about Child Food Poverty

Each week we deliver free food to 24 charities that specifically supply food to children and another 44 charities which support children as part of family groups or as part of a wider group of members. The Felix Project also delivers to 62 primary schools each week, where healthy food is made available to pupils and their parents on a market stall.

Holiday Hunger

Many of the children in deprived areas also suffer what is known as “holiday hunger” which is something experienced during the school holidays when the absence of free school meals is compounded by the need to pay childcare costs. Being aware that this is an increasing problem, we make sure that the food we deliver to schools during term time is delivered to charities, community centres and youth clubs who provide activities for children over the holidays and act

By the end of 2019, we aim to be delivering to 120 primary schools, and during the school holidays, the food that would be delivered to schools will go to up to 120 organisations who provide activities for children over the holidays. This will help ensure that children in deprived areas have access to good nutritious food on a year-round basis.

Kids education about cooking & nutrition

All of our deliveries, to both London schools and youth charities include fresh fruit and veg; all highly nutritious and delicious. Of our deliveries, 55% is fresh meat, fish, dairy fruit or veg; which is split as indicated in this chart.

Many of our charities and schools go the extra mile, helping the children they support to learn how to cook with the wonderful fare and teaching them about nutrition. An added benefit to children cooking and eating in a shared environment are the social skills and opportunities to meet others. They are not just learning about good, nutritious food and how to cook it, but are also part of a community.

And finally… here’s a few words from Tam who helps run Haringey Play, (one of the youth charities that we supply ). Tam is a guy who is really passionate about giving kids a safe haven and creating and supporting play opportunities that are stimulating and challenging, he says:

“Haringey Play association was set up 16 years ago, it’s quite a condensed area for refugees & has a high turnover of homeless people. The kids who come here come straight to the kitchen and ask for something to eat and we know that for some of them it’s the only hot meal that they might get. We have a lot of families who are economically challenged, and we don’t just feed our kids, we feed the families too. They come here and they pick up supplies on a weekly basis. The Felix Project is a lifeline to our families here.”