Holiday Hunger

This is my column in the Barnsley Chronicle from the 18th August, calling for more action to be taken to tackle holiday hunger and the use of foodbanks.

"The long summer holiday should be a happy time, and most of us have childhood memories of time spent with family and friends before the new school year.   

But for too many, it’s a time of real concern and stress. 

That’s because in Barnsley alone, there are over 6000 children who get free school meals, and the holiday means there are suddenly more mouths to feed each day.

When schools break up, those meals have to come from elsewhere and parents have to provide them instead. 

Too often, families and parents who are struggling for work or living on poverty wages simply can’t afford to do so, and their children suffer from ‘holiday hunger’.

I recently visited a foodbank in Wombwell, and the hard work done by the many volunteers there is as inspiring as it is vital.

But it was shocking to hear about just how many people depend on food banks to get by, and how many parents need emergency support over the holidays to replace free school meals.

Last year Wombwell food bank gave out 4256 3-day emergency food parcels to help those struggling to put food on their plates.

And the demand for help is only increasing – as we see over 2000 foodbanks operating across the country.

Indeed, from March 2016 to April 2017 the Trussell Trust – the biggest network of foodbanks in the UK – gave out 69,280 emergency food parcels in Yorkshire alone.

Across the country, they gave out nearly 1.2 million parcels, including 436,938 to children.

These figures don’t even include the 650 independent food banks, so the true scale of those struggling to eat is hard to measure, let alone comprehend.

But to put it simply; the fact that in this day and age the Conservative Government has left so many people in Barnsley and across the UK unable to afford food is nothing short of a disgrace.

On the other hand, Labour has vowed to provide all primary school children with a free school meal, and tackle the blight of low wages to help during the holidays.

As demand for help from food banks continues to rise – as it has every year the Tories have been in power – we must do so much more to make sure that summer holidays are a happier time for all our children."