A quarter of children using food banks over summer are under five

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Families with young children are increasingly relying on emergency food supplies during the summer holidays, analysis by the Trussell Trust reveals.

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The Trussell Trust research shows that over a third of food given out by food banks consistently goes to children

The largest food bank network in the UK has published new data, which shows that during July and August last year it provided 67,506 three-day emergency food supplies for children.
Of these 27 per cent went to babies and young children under four, and 47 per cent to five- to 11-year-olds.

The figures also show that 4,412 more three-day emergency supplies were given to children in July and August 2016 than in the previous two months.

The new data also reveals that the percentage of primary school aged children supported by the Trussell Trust’s food banks is high throughout the year - 46 per cent of children referred to the food bank during March and April  this year were between five and 11 - highlighting the need for year-round support.

All those who use Trussell Trust food banks have been referred by a professional, such as a social worker, health visitor or schools liaison officer.

During this year’s summer holidays the Trussell Trust is providing extra support to families through 60 food banks in its network, 24 of which will run Holiday Clubs. The project, supported by the Innocent Foundation, has been designed to provide both children and parents with fun learning activities and a hot meal.

Trained volunteers will also be talking to parents who are struggling and signposting them to relevant local services and organisations that can help them. Some clubs will also offer parents a ‘benefits health check’ to see if they are eligible for means-tested benefits, using a benefits calculator provided by Turn2us, a national charity that helps people in financial hardship to gain access to welfare benefits, charitable grants and support services.

Samantha Stapley operations manager for England at The Trussell Trust, said, ‘Over a third of all the food distributed by foodbanks in our network consistently goes to children, but these new figures show five- to 11-year-olds are more likely than other children to receive a foodbank’s help. This highlights just how close to crisis many families are living.’

The Trussell Trust has launched a national summer appeal urging people to donate to their local food bank during the school summer holidays. Over 90 percent of food given out by the Trussell Trust’s 420 foodbanks is donated by the public. In 2016-17, they distributed 11,175 tonnes of food.

Ms Stapley, added, ‘As a nation we also must address the reasons why families with children are referred to foodbanks in the first place. We welcome the Government’s decision to maintain free school lunches for children during term time – the next step must be to help families during the holidays. Foodbanks are doing more than ever before but voluntary organisations alone cannot stop primary school children facing hunger. We are keen to share our insights with the new Government alongside other charities to inform a long-term coordinated solution to stop families falling into crisis.’

The Rt Rev the Lord Bishop of Truro, Tim Thornton, said, the statistics were shocking.
‘That so many primary-age children are going without food in our country is of great concern,’ he said.

‘It is very good that the community wants to help and work with those less fortunate and that is a key part of the gospel values. It is, however, also important that we keep trying to understand the deeper reasons why this situation is as it is.’

Local authorities are required by the Child Poverty Act to assess the needs of children in poverty in their areas and to produce strategies to tackle the issues identified.
According to the Government, some local authorities may allocate funding to provide children with healthy meals during the holidays, and it considers that local decision makers are best placed to respond to local needs.

A Government spokesperson said, ‘Employment remains the best route out of poverty. Record numbers of people are now in work and we’re helping millions of households meet the everyday cost of living and keep more of what they earn. We’ve doubled free childcare to help parents into work, and continue to spend over £90 billion a year on support for those who need it, including those who are bringing up a family or on a low income. Budgeting advice and benefit advances are also available for anyone who needs more help.'

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