World Food Day: Tackling hunger in Britain
Today, the 16th October, is World Food Day. Many in the UK may not have heard about it, because its focus is often on hunger and malnutrition in developing countries and because many people don’t think that in the UK, the 7th richest country in the world, people go hungry. But they do.
Food poverty has been hitting the headlines recently, as UK hunger spreads. There are 5.8 million people living in “deep poverty” – meaning that they struggle to afford everyday essentials, such as food. Record unemployment, food price inflation and spending cuts are real causes of hardship and hunger amongst an increasingly varied group of people.
At FareShare, we provide food to a wide range of charities and community groups across the UK that work tirelessly to not only provide meals but other support to people living on the margins of society. People you wouldn’t think would go hungry, people who definitely shouldn’t go hungry.
For example, we work with charities that support children, from mothers and toddlers groups, to afterschool clubs and breakfast clubs. Just looking at breakfast clubs, more schools than ever before are relying on our service to feed hungry children at breakfast time. In the last year alone, we have seen a 57% increase!
Research carried out by Kelloggs’ show that four out of five teachers say their pupils are coming to school hungry and the problem is getting worse. Furthermore, more than two thirds of teachers said that parental apathy is the main problem meaning many parents are leaving children to fend for themselves in the morning. Some parents don’t have the time or the inclination to prepare breakfast, let alone supervise or encourage their children to eat it.
According to the Kellogg’s report ‘No food for thought’, financial hardship is also an issue according to more than half of the teachers. It doesn’t help that many families are feeling the pinch financially as a result of unemployment and redundancies, the high cost of living and government spending cuts. In extreme cases, this means that there simply isn’t enough food to go round.
The food FareShare redistributes is good quality food, which cannot be sold, but is perfectly fine to eat and within its use-by or best-before dates. In the case of breakfast clubs, we redistribute food from companies like Kellogg’s where, for example, the packaging may have become creased or crumpled during warehousing or transportation but the cereal bag in undamaged so the food is still edible. We’re relying on food companies for much needed food to help support these front-line charities and community organisations addressing an ever-increasing demand. Our own research shows that without this support, one in four schools would have to charge – or charge more – for their breakfast club, and the same number would have to reduce their service, or the amount served.
You don’t have to be a doctor or a nutritionist to know that eating breakfast in the morning is good for you. We hear time and time again from teachers and parents how beneficial a good, solid breakfast is for the children. Not only is attendance in school higher, as parents will have dropped the children off early at the breakfast club, but having a decent breakfast has a direct impact on children’s behaviour and concentration in lessons, making them more likely to reach their full potential at school. No one can speak about this better than the people running schools and breakfast clubs.
Here is what Mike O’Brien, Head Teacher at St Bernadette’s Catholic Primary School in Stockport, Greater Manchester, has told us: “Our breakfast club was established in 2005, and 50-60 children now attend each day. The breakfast club receives food every two weeks from FareShare, including Kellogg’s cereal, and we charge 20p per breakfast item, which we reinvest into the breakfast club, which now employs four members of staff.”
“Brinnington is a deprived area (third most deprived school in Stockport) and around 40% of the children are on free school meals. Teachers have noticed an increase in the number of children arriving at school hungry over the last year, so we target these children to make sure they have something to eat in the morning.”
He went onto say: “We’re always fundraising so we can subsidise breakfast for the children that really need it as we feel strongly that all children should have the same start regardless of their family background or financial situation. It’s had a massive effect on behaviour, concentration, social skills, wellbeing and ability to learn and they couldn’t cope without it.”
As I said at the start, today is World Food Day and it gives us an opportunity to highlight the issue of hunger in the UK and what is being done to address it – and we can all do more.
Lindsay Boswell is CEO of FareShare, a UK charity fighting hunger and food waste by redistributing quality surplus food from the food industry to a network of community organisations that support vulnerable people.
Tagged in: breakfast, breakfast club, britain, education, FareShare, food, hunger, malnutrition, poverty, school, World Food Day
Latest from Independent journalists on Twitter