Young children eating pizza and pasta

Drastic Action As Hunger Bites

Millions unsure they can keep food on the table

Landlords and teachers are stepping up as food poverty reaches crisis point across the UK. Food hubs are being created in London and North Wales while ‘in-school foodbanks’ in Scotland cater for kids turning up malnourished and dirty.

Around 2.2 million people are unsure they can keep basic meals on the table, the highest reported level in Europe. Four million kids are missing out on nutrition standards set by the government.

In North Wales, Clywd Alyn Housing Association is teaming up with Flintshire council to organise deliveries of 200,000 meals. A food hub will provide healthy, affordable grub for nursing and care services. Children whose school dinners dry up during holidays will also benefit.

In Kensington and Chelsea in London, Southern Housing Group, Clarion Housing Group and Guinness Housing Trust are launching a Food Pantry, to be run by the charity St Giles Trust. Community Investment Manager at Southern, Alice Webster, said: “It’s not a foodbank. People shop and pay for their food.” Members pay £3.50 and make up a food basket from what is available. Charity FareShare supplies the pantry out of donations of surplus or near end-of-date stock from supermarkets. “It doesn’t replace a weekly shop but in an expensive borough, it bridges the gap to take pressure off. It could free up some money for bills.”

“The pantry will help working families struggling to eat but also people affected by welfare reform and the elderly,” Alice added. “It provides a wide choice, including fresh and frozen produce, but most importantly offers dignity. There are no handouts and aims to become a sustainable enterprise by meeting its own costs while meeting the need of local members.”

The pantry has community at heart with members only allowed from within a certain distance. There is a garden at the back where people can have a cup of tea, chat or work in the garden, helping to grow fruit and veg. It is hoped donations will also be received from local stores and businesses.

Edinburgh teachers started contributing to in-school food banks after noticing children hungry, craving sleep and lashing out at other children. Despite higher wages than most of Scotland, 21,000 of the city’s children come from homes without enough to live on.

By contrast, North Ayrshire Council provides everyone with free school meals. Schemes in North Lanarkshire, Dumfries & Galloway and Fife have also been praised.

Cllr Ellie Bird, Edinburgh council’s young people’s champion, said: “Child poverty is probably the most pressing thing that’s facing this council – we need to all take massive licence of that.”

Chief exec of the Child Poverty Action Group blamed welfare reforms for rocketing hardship around the UK: “The actions needed to end UK hunger are to end benefit freezes and reform Universal Credit so it is fit for purpose before it is rolled out to anyone else.”

A UK government spokesperson was reported in the Independent as saying “household incomes have never been higher”. They did acknowledge that more needed to be done, however.

World Food Day is on 16th October. It aims to promote healthy diets and an end to hunger around the globe. Follow what happens at #ZeroHunger.

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