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Catholic MP: Increase of food banks in schools is ‘national shame’

A Catholic MP says it is a “national shame” that more schools in England are forced to set up food banks to help feed pupils’ families.

A survey carried out by The National Governance Association(NGA) found that 8% of governors were in schools which had food banks – up from 7% in 2018.

The highest pupil numbers who rely on the service come from the North East of England, where 13% of governors surveyed say they have a food bank in their school.

Emma Lewell-Buck, MP for South Shields, told The Catholic Universe: “It is sadly no surprise that the North East is one of the areas worst affected, as it is another example of the stark North-South divide.“

“It is a national shame that anyone should be going hungry in modern day Britain, especially children,” she added.

The NGA surveyed 6,000 governors regarding the challenges facing their schools.

The survey revealed the increased challenges of needing to provide families with basic needs. These included washing pupils’ school uniforms, running food banks and offering meals outside of term time.

A former social worker, Emma Lewell-Buck co-founded holiday hunger charity Feeding Britain with MP Frank Field in 2015. She challenged the Government to take action.

“Although the Government acknowledge that ‘holiday hunger’ exists, they refuse to provide comprehensive funding to the many programmes designed to mitigate it,” she said.

“It is time for them to act on hunger in a meaningful and consistent way,” she said.

NGA chief executive, Emma Knights, said: “The survey confirms pupil premium spending is being concentrated on the classroom in the belief that is where schools will have the most impact.”

“However, some respondents identify the very fundamental barriers to learning that some pupils face, sometimes as basic as not being well fed at home,” she added.

In May 2019, former children’s minister Nadhim Zahawi announced a £9.1m grant for organisations to provide free meals and activities for children during summer holidays.

Although 11 groups were selected to receive grants, Emma Lewell-Buck noted that 92 groups applied.

“The Government isn’t doing anything to support the other 81,” she said.

If the Government fails to deal with this issue, responsibility will inevitably fall to “the already stretched voluntary sector and education system,” she added.

Picture: File photo dated 26/04/16 of an employee at the Trussell Trust Brent Foodbank, Neasden, London. 

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Bishop joins calls on Government to tackle spread of Covid-19 in prisons

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