The largest provider of food for children during school holidays has today (09/04/2020) called for more support for over 200,000 young Londoners at risk of hunger during the Covid-19 crisis because they are not eligible for the Government’s food voucher scheme.
Speaking on the eve of the Easter bank holiday weekend, the Mayor’s Fund for London, an independent children’s charity, has drawn attention to the gap between the 400,000 children aged 16 and under living in food insecurity (GLA Survey of Londoners 2019) and the 196,000 who will be eligible for the new food vouchers. This gap is made up of over 200,000 young people who live in low income families, often with household earnings just over the threshold for free school meal eligibility (for those on universal credit, this is currently £7,400 per year after tax and benefits).
In reality, the number of children at risk could be much higher. With thousands of jobs in the capital disappearing overnight and self-employment income down, Universal Credit applications have soared. Many of these new claims will be from families with school-aged children who will be struggling to make ends meet, but will not be able to access food vouchers under the current rules.
In response to the problem, the Mayor’s Fund has launched an emergency fundraising appeal to support its network of local community groups and youth clubs who would normally deliver food and supplies to over 10,000 young people during the school holidays. Many of these groups are now working to distribute food parcels, ‘happiness hampers’ and hot cooked food to the young people in their neighbourhoods.
Kirsty McHugh, Chief Executive of the Mayor’s Fund for London, said:
“Easter is traditionally a time when families come together, not just for chocolate eggs, but for good quality home-cooked meals. Whilst families will be spending time together this year, far fewer children from low income backgrounds in London will be able to access nutritious food.
‘Our network of community groups is pulling out the stops to distribute food to children and families, often in dire need. The Government voucher scheme is welcome, but has been slow to get off the ground, and many young people simply won’t qualify for the support. We desperately need to raise money and gain other support to help them reach the young people in their communities.’’
Examples of the community groups being supported include Kentish Town Community Centre, Dome Youth Club and Ossulston St hub in Camden; Black Prince Community Hub, Brixton Library, Fold for Christ Ministry and The Hut in Lambeth and Mayflower Primary School, Bygrove Primary, Stebon Primary School and Spitalfields City Farm in Tower Hamlets (more below).
Speaking from the Kentish Town Community Centre, Sarah Hoyle, Centre Manager, said:
“Lots of local people are in shock because they may have lost their job, their kids are at home or they are struggling to cope. People are looking for contact, help and a virtual hug. We are and partnering with two local primary schools to provide ‘happiness hampers’ and have an in-house foodbank so that local people can access food immediately. All the funding we receive enables us to support local families with the basics.”
The Mayor’s Fund’s food programme, Kitchen Social, is part of the London Food Alliance and is coordinating efforts with City Harvest, The Felix Project and FareShare, to ensure nutritious surplus food is directed to the people who need it most.
Kitchen Social has also partnered with school caterer, Thomas Franks, who will supply the community hubs with environmentally packaged meals which contain sandwiches, salads, fruits and snacks, and are delivered fresh each morning.
The Mayor’s Fund is aiming to provide healthy food for London’s children however long the crisis lasts. Just £33 can help feed 10 children for one day.
FULL LIST OF KITCHEN SOCIAL COMMUNITY HUBS IN OPERATION:
Barking and Dagenham – YMCA Romford
Barnet – Rainbow Centre
Brent – Roundwood Youth Centre
Camden – Kentish Town Community Centre, The Dome Youth Club and Ossulston St
Ealing – The ART BLOCK and Bollo Brook
Greenwich – Central Eltham Youth Project
Hammersmith & Fulham – Old Oak Community Centre
Hackney – Manor House Development Trust
Islington – Paradise Park Children’s Centre
Lambeth – Black Prince Community Hub, Brixton Library, Fold for Christ Ministry and The Hut
Southwark – Colombo Centre, Central Southwark Community Hub and Mercato Metropolitano
Tower Hamlets – Mayflower Primary School, Bygrove Primary, Stebon Primary School and Spitalfields City Farm
Westminster – The Grow Well Group