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Millions left to count cost of holiday hunger

The Government has been urged to do more to eradicate holiday hunger amid warnings that over four million children living in poverty face risks to their health and mental wellbeing every school holiday.

New research conducted by National Food & Activity foundation charity Meals & More found that the absence of a hot meal during the long summer holidays for children who usually receive a free school meal is having a huge impact on their development and progress.

“Summer holidays should mean fun, but for millions of children it’s a period of uncertainty and stress for parents who do their best for their children in difficult circumstances,” said Peter McGrath, Meals & More operational director.

“Knowing that children are not getting the food they need should shock all of us. Meals & More partnerships contribute to supportive environments, boosting health, self-belief and aspirations.”

The charity warns that the lack of food is predicted to lead to health problems such as poor growth and type 1 diabetes for deprived children, with healthcare professionals warning of a rise in GP visits as a result of child malnourishment this summer.

School holidays place a huge extra burden on families who are already struggling financially, and the additional expense of covering childcare costs, activities and meals can push them into serious financial difficulty.

Just the absence of the provision of free school meals alone can cost families around £30 a week and holiday hunger has pushed many families into food insecurity, denying children a fundamental right to food.

Yet despite the statistics, a OnePoll survey of 2,000 UK adults found that half (49 per cent) have never heard of holiday hunger but once aware, the majority are keen to help – 78 per cent express concern about the issue, while 58 per cent are keen to give food and 28 per cent would donate money to support vital services in the UK’s most deprived communities.

Picture: Girl staring at an apple. (Misty Bedwell/Design Pics via ZUMA Wire).