The summer holidays should be a time for parents of school-age children to take a break from the pressures of early morning school runs and lost PE kits. But for many families, not being able to rely on free school lunches means that holidays are spent worrying about where those extra meals will come from.
According to figures released last week from food bank charity the Trussell Trust, one in five UK parents "expect to skip a meal during the six-week break so there will be enough food for their children to eat," a figure that rises to almost one in three (32 percent) in parents aged between 25 and 34-years-old. This equates to nearly 1.5 million parents across the UK.
It also found that 40 percent of parents are "likely to worry about the extra cost of paying for childcare and activities," rising to 51 percent in 25 to 34-year-old parents.
The findings echo a previous Trussell Trust report, which found that in July and August 2015, 63,442 three-day emergency food supply packs were given to children, which was "5,000 more than the 58,543 food supplied provided to children in the preceding two months."
Andy May, head of media at the Trussell Trust, told MUNCHIES that a reliance on free school meals in term time contributes towards extra pressure on parents in the holidays. He said: "Low income families whose children get school lunches free in term time struggle during the holidays. It's a six-week break having to support children with extra food, with additional costs like buying new school uniform, at the end."
According to the UK Department of Education, in January 2015, 15.2 percent of pupils in England were eligible for and claiming free school meals. But after cuts earlier this year to tax credits like Universal Credit, upon which eligibility for free school meals is partly based, the number of pupils able to gain access to free lunches may decrease.
And this, in turn, may well increase reliance on food banks. In another Trussell Trust's report from April this year—which revealed that food bank use was at a record high, giving out more than a million three-day emergency supplies—benefit delays were found to account for 42 percent of referrals.
May added that the Trussell Trust doesn't like to speculate on whether the latest round of tax credit cuts will affect food bank useage, preferring to "focus on preventative measures instead," such as its kids holiday club, which provides free activities and nutritious meals.
School may be out for summer, but food poverty most certainly is not.