The issue of holiday food poverty is intrinsically linked to the issue of term time food poverty. Just ask the families of South East Londonby Alex Shilling / August 17, 2017 / Leave a comment
“I thought I was making a cup of tea for a real man,” my colleague Cindy barks in scandalised fashion at the delivery driver, who has just told her that he doesn’t want any sugar in his tea.
We’re in the kitchen at Plumstead Adventure Playground in south east London, near where I grew up. 15 years ago, it would have been me getting stuck halfway down that slide and ending up with woodchips itching down my t shirt. Today, I’m working.
Since 2010, Plumstead has had an unemployment rate significantly higher than the national average—and a much higher rate of working-age adults claiming job seeker’s allowance. Many families here struggle to feed their children during term time.
Often, these families are supported by their children benefitting from free school meals—but during the summer holidays, feeding their children nutritious meals on a budget becomes even harder.
That’s why I’m working with the Good Food In Greenwich action group, which prepares and cooks hot meals every week day for children across south east London who claim free school meals during term time. Today, Ainsley, I’m making chicken pasta.
The main challenge is keeping the kids occupied and out of your way while you’re cooking. “Is it nearly ready yet?” “Nope.” “Can I have just chicken?” “No Avram. Vegetables are important too.”
The problem of holiday food poverty is a nationwide one and has recently been highlighted by Labour MPs Mary Creagh and Shadow Education Secretary Angela Rayner. In July 2016, figures from the Department of Education showed that 15.6 per cent of pupils in state primary schools were getting free school meals.
This was the lowest proportion since 2001, but it still led to fears that many pupils living in poverty were not able to benefit from free school meals, due to the eligibility threshold being set at a household income below £16,000 a year.
These fears were amplified last April by St Mary’s University, whose research showed that two thirds of families living in relative or actual poverty were unable to claim free school meals for their children.
The kitchen, which is where meals are prepared for anything from 15 to 40 kids a day and today is accommodating five staff members, is no bigger…