Wales

Help for hungry children set for new high, food banks warn

A school meal being eaten from a yellow tray, with corn, potato and an apple on the side
Image caption One council wants others to follow its lead by offering free lunches in school holidays

Welsh food banks expect a record number of emergency food supplies to be handed to children this summer.

The Trussell Trust, which runs most of the food banks in Wales, is set to hand out more than the 5,382 three-day emergency supplies handed out in 2017.

It has now renewed its call for the public to help by donating food.

It comes at the same time a council wants all authorities to follow its lead and offer free lunches at play schemes during all holidays.

Flintshire council said in the first two weeks of the holidays the council says it has provided more than 6,000 lunches.

Samantha Stapley, director of operations at the Trussell Trust, said, "Food banks cannot, and must not, be a long term to solution to hunger at any time of year.

"No-one in Wales should face going hungry, and although our network will be doing all they can this summer to help families struggling to make the money they have stretch to cover the essentials, no charity can replace people having enough money for the basics.

During last year's summer holidays Trussell Trust food banks gave out 197 more emergency food supplies to children than in 2016.

More than a third of all emergency food supplies distributed by food banks throughout the year goes to children.

Ms Stapley added: "There are changes we can make to help during the holidays, but if we are to protect each other from hunger whatever the time of year, we have to go further than that.

Image caption Flintshire council's Bernie Attridge wants to roll out their scheme for all school holidays

"We know particular groups of people are most likely to need a food bank, so let's make sure no-one is swept into destitution."

School holiday hunger is becoming an increasing issue, with voluntary groups, councils and the Welsh Government stepping in to try to stop children going without food during the long summer break.

For many low income families, holidays mean the loss of free breakfast clubs and free school lunches.

An All Party Parliamentary group report on hunger found the loss of free meals during the holidays can cost families between £30 and £40 a week per child.

Last month Flintshire council announced plans to offer every child attending their summer play schemes a free lunch.

Bernie Attridge, the authority's deputy leader, said it followed play scheme leaders last year reporting children arriving hungry.

"I am very surprised by the demand and it's very sad that we are doing this in the 21st Century but till we eradicate food poverty it will continue," he said.

"If kids are going hungry through the summer it must be the same for half-term and other school holidays. I would also like to see every local authority in Wales to follow Flintshire's lead."

The Welsh Government is also providing 2,500 places at its "Food and Fun" play scheme in some of the most deprived areas and includes free breakfasts and free lunches.

Churches, charities and community centres also provide food for families in need.

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