Combatting child hunger during the school holidays

Published: 22 Oct 2014

Author: Lindsay Graham
Combatting child hunger during the school holidays

Lindsay Graham, a School Food and Health Policy Advisor, travelled to the USA to investigate community projects that address school holiday child hunger. Her Fellowship report is entitled '170 Days' - the approximate number of non-school days in the year in the UK that Free School Meal (FSM) pupils cannot access their entitlement to a school lunch, which is often the only regular hot meal that is available to them during term time.

Over a million UK schoolchildren rely on free school meals during term time. It is a vital social support to low income families with regards to financial burden, health and wellbeing. However, during the long summer breaks, the issue of ‘holiday hunger’ has become a real concern, with food banks and community projects reporting more hungry families seeking extra provisions. 

In the USA, the government is tackling the problem by funding breakfast and summer meals programmes throughout the country. They vary in size, location and delivery and are often run by volunteer providers called ‘sponsors’. USDA funding is open to comunity organisations that can support the programmes.

Ms Graham, based in Sheffield, visited a number of established and innovative summer meals projects in nine USA states. Her aim was to research types of food provision, logistics, potential challenges, and community partnerships, as well as looking into how providers identify families in need of support.

The projects she saw ranged from small church-run community projects in Georgia, with 20 hot meals served in a family-style setting, to large truck runs in New York serving thousands of packed meals to queues of families all over the city. She also attended a Senate hearing on the theme of ‘Meeting the challenge of feeding America’s schoolchildren’.

There is a real and urgent need in the UK for such a valued and supportive programme, and I hope that in the future our government will do much more to support the fledging projects run by charities, local authorities and food banks already underway. Investment is needed for those 170 days of the year when our children are going hungry.

Ms Graham’s report on her Fellowship, with recommendations on how such programmes might run in the UK, has just been published.