A recent parliamentary report has highlighted a “deeply troubling” trend of children returning to school malnourished after holiday periods, and has praised the efforts by community groups including churches who strive to end ‘holiday hunger’.
The inquiry, conducted between February and April 2017 by the all-party parliamentary group (APPG) on hunger, examined the extent and causes of hunger amongst children during school holidays. It found that up to an estimated three million children are at risk of being hungry out of term time while they do not have access to free school meals, resulting in them arriving back at school “totally unprepared to learn”.
Jane Whittington, diocesan schools officer, commented:
“We know that for many children their school lunch is their main meal of the day and that they miss out during the school holidays, so initiatives that provide children and their families with a healthy meal when the school is closed are a vital resource.”
Jo Cookes, director of communities engagement at the Diocese of Guildford, added:
“The state of food poverty in the UK continues to worsen and these are really tough times for low-income families. In the past year Trussell Trust food banks gave out almost 1.2 million three-day food supplies to people in crisis – over 70,000 more than in the previous 12 months.
“This is a real opportunity for parishes to demonstrate God’s love for their community and respond with compassion. Food could be supplied to children at the kids activities and holiday clubs that churches are already running. Organisations such as Make Lunch can provide support if needed, even cooking meals in the church kitchens.”
Parishes in our diocese are already working to reduce help bridge the nutrition gap during the school holidays. During the recent Easter holidays, HeBrews coffee shop, part of St Paul’s church in Addlestone, supoplied free lunches during its programme of exciting activities.
Emmanuel church, in Stoughton, Guildford, operates a ‘holiday hamper’ scheme during the school holidays, which sees them deliver fresh fruit, vegetables and salads to low-income families to supplement the staples they get from foodbanks. For the longer holidays, the church provide supermarket vouchers to enable families to purchase extra supplies.
You can read case studies on their initiatives here.
To find out how your church could fill the holiday nutrition gap, contact Jo Cookes, director of communities engagement, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or telephone 01483 790 330.
She said: “Now is the time for parishes to commit to helping reduce holiday hunger this summer – it could be as simple as including lunch in your holiday club offering.
“Whether you need advice on how to identify and approach families in need, how best to support them sensitively, or details of existing organisations helping families, we can assist you in this vital outreach and would love to hear from you.”