Holiday hunger: Parents skip meals to feed children

A volunteer at a food bank Image copyright PA

Some parents will skip a meal to feed their children this summer, a charity has said.

A Trussell Trust report reveals the worries of having to pay for childcare and food during the six-week break.

The charity said demand on its 35 food banks in Wales peak during July and August, when there is no access to school dinners or breakfast clubs.

In response it has launched new holiday clubs to offer children activities and provide them with meals.

In July and August 2015, Trussell Trust food banks in Wales gave out 4,703 three-day emergency food supplies to children, compared to 4,415 in the two previous months.

Food banks and lunch organisations, including Starkies in Aberystwyth, have also been handing out meals.

And the trend is predicted again this year.

'Close to crisis'

"Families who rely on free school meals during term time can find themselves facing hunger in the school holidays," said Tony Graham, the Trussell Trust's food bank network manager for Wales.

"No one knows the full scale of hunger in Wales during the school holidays, but these figures make one thing clear: many families are closer to crisis than we think."

Following the success of pilot projects over the Easter holidays, The Trussell Trust has launched holiday clubs in Ebbw Vale, Port Talbot and Llandrindod food banks.

Designed for both school children and their parents, the clubs are run by volunteers and aim to:

  • Provide children and families with nutritious meals
  • Offer activities and learning to keep children and their families engaged and active
  • Offer additional support for families, and give both children and their parents the chance to make new friends

Next summer will see the clubs rolled out further.

Image copyright PATCH
Image caption Patch travels around Pembrokeshire picking up donations for its food banks

Pembrokeshire Action to Combat Hardship (Patch) has food banks in Haverfordwest, Saundersfoot, Pembroke Dock and Milford Haven, as well a various donation drop-off points.

Working closely with referral agencies, Patch has been helping to put food on the table of people in a financial crisis since 2008.

Last year it gave food parcels to 3,421 people, clothing to over 450 people and small household items to over 800 people.

Co-ordinator Tracy Olin said: "We rely totally on local people supporting us.

"Last month we saw a 90% increase in need compared to June 2015. And that need is still creeping up."

David Holland is the manager of Rhondda food bank which has seen an increase in the number of children being provided for in recent years.

Looking at last year's statistics, he said they provided for 717 children out of the 1,948 living in the Rhondda Valleys they cover.

He is now considering setting up a breakfast club during the summer months.

In Carmarthenshire an urgent appeal has been issued by the council to ensure children do not go hungry during the school holidays.

People are urged to donate food items to drop-off points across the county and parents are encouraged not to feel embarrassed about seeking help.

Councillor Alun Lenny said: "As well as appealing to the public in general to donate what they can to the food bank collection points in supermarkets or directly, I encourage parents who find themselves in need to take advantage of this facility - for their children's sakes.

"At a time of austerity, being short of money isn't something to be ashamed of."

Image copyright PATCH
Image caption Food banks rely on donations of non-perishable foods

Mr Graham said that Trussell Trust's latest figures should be a "wake up call".

"Food banks in Wales already provide additional help to families who struggle to put food on the table outside of term time, and our summer pilot of holiday clubs is a crucial step in broadening the support offered by food banks in the holidays."

He called for a "long-term coordinated solution" between the government, businesses, schools and charities.

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