When we look back to our school summer holidays, we remember lying around in shorts on the scorched grass in our back gardens, hose pipe bans, eating fruit juice lollies that still faintly tasted of plastic, and feeling about 25 as we spent our £10 pocket money in town buying Natural Collection nail polish, sherbert and a bus ticket. Sadly, for thousands of girls in 2017, the six-week break will be one filled with anxiety.
Because despite being one of the richest countries in the world, a disproportionate number of young people and families still rely on food banks, and charities are urging the public to donate to their local centres so they can meet the growing demand.
The Trussell Trust, which runs over 420 food banks across the UK, has warned that many children will face going hungry , noting an increase in more than 4,000 emergency food parcels being needed between July and August last year.
According to the trust, nearly half of the 67,506 parcels given out went to primary school-aged children, while 27 per cent went to children under the age of four.
“This highlights just how close to crisis many families are living – as a nation, we also must address the reasons why families with children are referred to food banks in the first place,” Samantha Stapley, operations manager for The Trussell Trust in England, said in a statement.
“We welcome the government’s decision to maintain free school lunches for children during term time – the next step must be to help families during the holidays.
“Food banks are doing more than ever before, but voluntary organisations alone cannot stop primary school children facing hunger.”
The government response to their claims? Unsurprisingly lack lustre.
“Employment remains the best route out of poverty,” a spokeswoman for the Department for Work and Pensions said.
“Record numbers of people are now in work, and we’re helping millions of households meet the everyday cost of living and keep more of what they earn.
“We’ve doubled free childcare to help parents into work, and continue to spend over £90bn a year on support for those who need it, including those who are bringing up a family or on a low income.
“Budgeting advice and benefit advances are also available for anyone who needs more help.”
They seem to be missing the point that despite this, there is hard evidence that many people still rely on charity food hand-outs – including those in work. No one wants to use food banks, and in a country with so much wealth, it is absurd that any British citizen would even have to consider using one, let alone be forced to.
The government have been less than forthcoming with solutions, but we can do our best to alleviate the problem in the short term. Find out where your local food bank is here and donate what you can. Children need your help now more than ever.