In 2019, across the UK, there is reported to be thousands of children who are going hungry in the school holidays – a sad reflection on our society. Personally, I don’t like to use the phrase “holiday hunger” as I feel it is misery-inducing and heart-breaking therefore I will be referring to “holiday provision” throughout my opinion piece.
At present, the provisions across the country are extremely fragmented and if these initiatives are to be fully effective, the projects needs to be co-ordinated and managed by the Government, or by an agency representing and reporting to government.
The efforts being made by various organisations to ensure that some of these struggling children are receiving free meals during the school holidays is to be commended. Working in the foodservice industry means that we can support these projects to the best of our ability and it is our responsibility to give back and help our local communities.
At Bidfood, we regularly support our customer base and communities. This year, we have launched our own dedicated campaign to support holiday provision across the country. No matter who you work for in the food and drink sector, you can play a part. As a business, we frequently engage with suppliers, schools, caterers and charities to support where we can. However, I feel key figureheads within the industry must look at coming together to drive this initiative forward and maximise results. This issue is close to our hearts at Bidfood and is close to mine as a parent.
There are already a number of successful initiatives providing holiday meals, such as HCL’s Fit, Fed and Read & CaterEds Big Summer Food Tour, but these are on a case by case basis. We will need to do more research to identify exactly what is being produced on a national level, alongside an accurate assessment of the actual number of children in need of this provision and where they are located in the UK.
It is well known that local authorities’ finances are stretched and in some cases they are having to reduce care to the elderly and some children. In addition, the Government’s allowance to provide universal free school meals to reception, year 1 and year 2 in primary schools, continues to be set at £2.30 since its introduction in 2014. With the increases in food prices, it’s proving difficult to maintain this provision whilst also retaining the quality of the free meals. There is an industry committee in place to approach the Government to request increasing this funding, during the Consumer Spending Review in October 2019. However, this could well be delayed due to Brexit.
To conclude, the future of holiday provision is uncertain, but the need for children to be fed in the school holidays will continue. If we are to reach all the children who require the meals, we will need to come together to identify the issues and address them promptly. It is our duty as businesses within the food and drink industry to do all we can to help where we can.