One in five schools set up food banks during the pandemic

One in five British schools have set up a food bank since the start of the pandemic to support local families in difficulty, according to a survey which highlights the scale of the COVID crisis. reach the standard of living for many, especially in disadvantaged neighborhoods

CREDIT: This is an edited version of an article that originally appeared on The Guardian

In a recent YouGov poll, commissioned by the food company Kellogs, one-fifth of teachers said their schools had started a food bank, more than a third said their schools delivered food packages to students’ homes, and more a quarter ran breakfast clubs – some even for vulnerable students not allowed to attend schools during lockdown. The YouGov poll interviewed 1,100 primary and secondary teachers across the UK in February; Kellogg’s funds breakfast clubs in disadvantaged areas and provides food for the charity Price sharing.

A third of teachers believe their schools have become key providers of COVID social support services for families in poverty, often funding this additional support from school budgets, with the help of local charities, groups parent-teachers and counseling.

More than a quarter of teachers said they personally kept private supplies of food and snacks in a closet or desk to give to hungry students on a ad hoc base, while five percent of teachers said their schools had made emergency loans to parents.

The findings come amid concerns about a expected increase in poverty levels in the fall, when the employment support on leave and the COVID supplement of £ 20 per week to the universal credit, must be withdrawn, which hits the budgets of many low-income households and pushes an additional 500,000 people into below the poverty line.

Charitable food aid increased sharply during the pandemic economic crisis. The Trussell Trust, the UK’s largest food bank network, has distributed nearly 50% more food packages in the first half of last year, and warned of the dangers of “standardizing” food packages in response to poverty.

Lots of deprivation

“The results of this survey did not surprise me,” said Sarah Wardle, deputy director of Benfield’s school, Newcastle-upon-Tyne. “We work in areas that are really economically vulnerable, and there is a lot of deprivation. We knew that due to the lockdown, many of our students and their families would need additional support. “

Sarah said Benfield – where 65% of children get free school meals – had organized breakfast clubs for all children during the pandemic and did not expect the need for additional food to decrease in the near future. to come up. “COVID has highlighted the inequalities and shown where we need to improve services for vulnerable people,” she said.

Kellogg’s survey found that among teachers who believed their school had taken on a more important family support role during the pandemic, 61% believed local household incomes had plummeted due to the coronavirus, and 57% believed that families struggled to manage their finances during a lockdown.

More than half of teachers surveyed – 56% – felt the government had not done enough to support struggling families during the pandemic, while 46% called for an increase in universal credit and 55% felt that the value of food vouchers given to families and free school meals should be increased. About 28% of teachers thought that more food banks should be opened.

Schools also provided a range of other services – from fruit and vegetable delivery to emotional support provided by family liaison teams. Almost three-quarters of schools had delivered non-food items, such as computer equipment, to students’ homes during the lockdown.

Food insecurity on the rise

Food Foundation think tank says food insecurity has increased most of the poorest families with school-aged children during the pandemic. Four in ten families with children receiving free school meals experienced food insecurity in the past six months, compared to 12% of all households with children.

Dependence on charitable food was also higher among families with children on free school meals, Food Foundation reported this week. Almost a third of this group (32%) used food banks in December and January, compared to 13% of all children during the same time period.

“We have made it clear that we will support every eligible child with free school meals while they learn remotely during school time,” a government spokesperson said, “and we have increased the funding we are giving to schools. so they continue to ensure eligible students are fed – whether through meal packages, local vouchers or our national voucher system.

“Wider support for schoolchildren is also available through our Breakfast Club Program, the School Fruit and Vegetable Program and our significant investment in food distribution charities, including FareShare.

“We know many vulnerable families are struggling – that’s why we’ve raised living wages, increased welfare by billions and introduced COVID winter scholarship program to make sure children and families are warm and fed. In April, we will increase the value of our Healthy Start vouchers by more than a third to help those in need with young children.

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