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“Holiday hunger” is coming soon, warns Catholic MP

A Catholic MP has highlighted the problem of “holiday hunger” and a sharp rise in the number of families using foodbanks during the school holidays.

Emma Lewell-Buck, MP for South Shields, said: “We’ve got record levels now of in-work poverty. Surveys show it varies between an extra £30-£50 per week for people to feed their children in school holidays. As a result, 3 million children can be affected.”

Over a third of food distributed by the foodbank network throughout the year goes to children, but families who rely on free school meals during term time experience extra financial pressure during school holidays.

The Trussell Trust co-ordinates the nationwide network of UK food banks. Between April 2018 and March 2019, the Trussell Trust’s food bank network distributed 1.6 million three-day emergency food supplies to people in crisis-a 19% increase on the previous year and its busiest ever year.

According to the Trussell Trust, most food aid providers have a connection with a religious institution. As the summer holidays approach, Emma Lewell-Buck paid tribute to such faith groups.

“Across the country, it is faith groups and charities who are plugging the gap left by the state. Thank God they are, because if they weren’t, people would be going hungry and literally starving,” she said.

“It’s like it used to be in the 1940s, when people who had fallen on hard times turned to the Church.”

Father Dominic Mckenna runs a foodbank warehouse at St Teresa of the Child Jesus parish, Borehamwood. “Holidays are a disastrous time for families. We provide a soup lunch on Wednesdays and it is hugely popular,” he said.

“The difficulty is that it’s not just those without work-it also affects working families.”

Commenting on “holiday hunger”, Matthew Van Duyvenbode, Director of Strategy and Impact
 at the Trussell Trust, said: “Catholic Social Teaching is rooted in the concept of human dignity; and no charity can replace the dignity of having enough money for the basics. But more and more families are struggling to make ends meet. This isn’t right.”

“Food banks do all they can to help families over the summer, with many running holiday clubs to support parents who find that their income simply won’t stretch to meet the extra pressure of missing free school meals or paying for childcare.”

Father Mckenna showed how his church helps. “Kids are bored out of their trees in the holidays. We put arts and crafts sessions on for children, and they are so popular,” he said.

Mr Van Duyvenbode called for changes in government policy. “The Government needs to ensure benefit payments reflect the true cost of living and work is secure, paying the real living wage, which would help eliminate the need for a food bank parcel altogether,” he said.

Picture: A young girl helps guide a shopping cart through a food bank operated by the Indianapolis Council of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul (CNS photo/Katie Rutter)

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