Why are over 17,000 children in Northamptonshire eligible for free school meals?
Why are there over 11,000 children living in poverty in Northampton?
After 10 years of austerity we see the rise of food banks, hidden homelessness, the decimation of legal aid, denial of benefits to the severely disabled and the improverishment of single mothers.
Covid -19 and the pandemic has added to the stresses and strains on already vulnerable families.
There are the additional worries of redundancy and loss of jobs, fragile tenancies, overcrowded homes, debt, alcohol and drug abuse, domestic violence and the mental health of both parents and children.
We know that poverty has a devastating impact on children’s lives.
Children living in poverty are 5.5% more likely to go hungry.
Children from low income families are often hungry, too hungry to sleep, and then too tired and hungry to engage in lessons at school. They underachieve at school.
By GCSE, there is a 28% gap between children receiving free school meals and their peers. This will affect their future employment and life chances.
Food poverty affects children’s physical development and health, their ability to concentrate and thrive at school. They can feel isolated, stigmatised and cut off from learning and social opportunities, all because their parents can’t afford enough food. This is shameful in a society that believes every child matters. Poverty is the underlying factor in children’s hunger.
We are living in a period of deep political and economic uncertainty. Brexit is imminent along with the implementation of further cuts to welfare benefits and rising inflation (including food prices). The situation for families who are struggling to feed themselves is unlikely to improve.
Radical change is needed to tackle the food poverty of children and families.
We call on our MPs and the government to make use of research on budget standards to ensure that wages and benefits, in combination, are adequate for a socially acceptable standard of living and eating. There needs to a recognition of the fundamental role of food in health and social inclusion.
We call on our MPs and the government to make free school meals available to all children of families on Universal Credit, and to continue this support through all school holidays.