Column: tackling holiday hunger

The following appeared as my column in the Barnsley Chronicle on 3rd August:

As we reach the summer holidays, it’s usually a time to relax and recharge the batteries before the new school year.

But unfortunately, this isn’t the care for many people in our community.

Instead, the holidays bring a period of stress for families as the free meals provided to their children by schools are no longer available.

In Barnsley alone, for instance, there are over 6,100 children who receive a good, free meal at school every day.

But once our schools shut down for summer these vital meals are no longer provided.

Parents are left with more mouths to feed at home, and an extra meal each day to provide.

For too many families in our community with parents who are struggling for work, stuck in uncertain and insecure employment, or living on low wages that keep them trapped in poverty, they simply can’t cope.

Many may be forced to go hungry themselves as they can only provide so many meals for their family and choose to provide for their children, whilst others simply cannot afford the extra responsibilities at all.

Ultimately, many children in our community are subject to ‘holiday hunger’.

I’ve visited several foodbanks, including Barnsley’s Trussell Trust foodbank.

I continue to be amazed by the generosity of our community who give so much for those less fortunate than themselves, but appalled that foodbanks are even required in this day and age.

Moreover, I’m shocked by how demand for emergency food parcels increases so much over the holidays.

Last year, Barnsley’s Trussell Trust foodbank gave out over 4,256 emergency food parcels to help struggling people put food on their plates.

The problem isn’t confined to Barnsley, either. In Yorkshire and the Humber, there were 77,411 parcels provided, and more then 1.3m across the UK- including nearly 500,000 given to children.

Demand for foodbanks is continuing to rise, more and more people are seeking help in the long summer holidays, and the number of children going hungry as they’re forced to go without their usual free school meal is unacceptable.

We need to do so much more to make sure the summer holidays are a happier time for all our children.