Trussell Trust distributed double the number of food parcels for children between April and September 2022, compared to the same period in 2017
Government ministers are facing calls to help nurseries continue to provide nutritious meals amid evidence that growing numbers of young children are arriving hungry.
Analysis of a recent survey of 500 childcare providers and professionals by the Early Years Alliance found that rising food costs were having an impact on the majority.
The survey showed that 94% had been affected by increased food costs, with 62% forced to use cheaper ingredients and almost a tenth (9%) turning to food redistribution charities for support. Almost half of those surveyed (49%) said that they had seen an increase in the number of children arriving to their setting hungry.
Neil Leitch, Chief Executive of the Early Years Alliance, said the findings were “incredibly concerning”. He said: “With so many families struggling during the cost-of-living crisis, we know that for some children, the food they receive at their nursery, pre-school or childminder might well be their only opportunity for a healthy meal.
“The fact that more providers are themselves struggling to provide nutritious food – or to do so at an affordable price – is a real cause for concern.”
Alison Garnham, Chief Executive, Child Poverty Action Group was also critical of the government. She said: “The Prime Minister is right to want a better future for children but promising more maths in the curriculum won’t make it any easier for hungry children to learn.
“With almost four million UK kids in poverty this new year, the government must ‘reimagine’ its approach to child poverty.”
“The rising cost of living will be increasing the pressure on [single parent and larger] families, pushing more families with children through the doors of food banks.”
Beatrice Orchard, Senior Policy and Public Affairs Manager at the Trussell Trust, told EHN Extra that in the six months from April to September 2022, the food bank network distributed just under half a million food parcels for children across the UK, more than double the number distributed in the same period in 2017.
She said: “Our research has shown that single parent families and larger families, are overrepresented at food banks. The rising cost of living, including the rising cost of essential food items, will be increasing the pressure on these families, pushing more families with children through the doors of food banks.
“The government has pledged to increase Universal Credit in line with inflation, but this won’t happen until April. Thousands of people desperately need help now. The government must act to prevent more people being left further behind.”
A Department for Education spokesperson said the government had increased support for three- and four-year-olds, introduced 15 hours’ free childcare a week for disadvantaged two-year-olds and allowed people on universal credit to claim back up to 85% of their childcare costs.
The government is also “looking into” options to improve the cost, flexibility and availability of childcare.
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