Ministers told to act over ‘holiday hunger’ of schoolchildren

The Guardian is reporting that the founder of the Leon restaurant chain and co-architect of the government’s school food programme has urged ministers to tackle “holiday hunger” faced by hundreds of thousands of children from low-income families who struggle to eat healthily outside term time…

John Vincent said children living in poverty dropped further behind their better-off peers when schools closed and they had no access to free school meals, and they were often physically and mentally unprepared for learning when they returned. In a Guardian interview, Vincent said: “There’s enough anecdotal evidence to say that some children come back to school less well nourished and generally in less good shape [than when they left], and they go backwards academically.”

Campaigners say children whose families experience financial pressures are not only at greater risk of food insecurity, family stress, isolation and poor health during the holidays, but they also miss out on the so-called social “enrichment activities” such as trips and sporting and cultural activities enjoyed by better-off children.

Vincent, who persuaded ministers to fund a £1.2bn universal free school meals plan last year, said the development of food and leisure schemes during holiday times was the “next stage” in the battle to tackle pupil hunger and address a widening gap in academic attainment between rich and poor children.

Vincent called for schools and local charities, councils and businesses to work together to develop “food-based holiday schemes” which would guarantee children a free healthy meal and a range of activities. “The primary aim is that no child goes hungry, but it is also about enrichment and opportunity for children to do creative things during the holiday.”…

The Trussell Trust food bank network said it believed holiday hunger was behind an 11% spike in referrals of families with children to its food banks during the six-week holidays this summer. It said some of its members extended their opening hours during school holidays to cope with the extra demand for food parcels.

Carmel McConnell, the founder of Magic Breakfast, a charity which works with more than 440 school breakfast schemes, said in extreme cases children had been hospitalised after suffering from malnutrition during long school holidays…

Labour MP Sharon Hodgson, who chairs the all-party parliamentary group on school food, said: “John Vincent is right that we need to have a debate as a country about how we ensure that all the good work schools do during term time, especially with our most vulnerable children, isn’t undone in the holidays.”…

More at: Ministers told to act over ‘holiday hunger’ of schoolchildren


See also this from the Guardian: Holiday hunger: the charities offering poorer families a lifeline


Whilst poverty is a crucial aspect here, the underlying issue is presumably about more than just money and covers broader issues relating to parenting more generally. In situations where schools are providing a safety net for vulnerable children, going far beyond the idea of providing just education, what happens during the holidays when it is not there? Do we need a different approach? Please tell us what you think in the comments or via Twitter…


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  1. andylutwyche

    SchoolsImprove No-one would question this but short of institutionalising loads of children how can this be realistically tackled?

  2. jpjsavage

    MaryMyatt SchoolsImprove yep, agree. Not sure why conflating it with school provision is the right focus to help though.

  3. Wynthorpe

    “SchoolsImprove: Ministers told to act over ‘holiday hunger’ of schoolchildren. Our breakfast club open nxt wk thanks to magic_breakfast

  4. ajjolley

    SchoolsImprove tackling Holiday Hunger should be a far higher priority than universal free school meals
    Target those children in need!

  5. magpie_ms

    ajjolley SchoolsImprove Hope Tories are pleased with themselves for policies that made people poorer & Clegg for feeding rich kids UIFSM

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