Children growing up in poverty ‘endure hunger and shame'
30% of children are in poverty in the UK, which has risen by 500,000 from 3.6million in 2010-2012, to 4.1 million in 2016-17.
The research published by Child Poverty Action Group has shown that children in low-income families are going hungry and are being exposed to ‘feelings of shame and social exclusion’ because of lack of money and food.
It found that around one quarter of children in the study went hungry at times, despite the sacrifices their parents made.
“When I’m hungry I just can’t concentrate, it’s really, really hard for me to do that…so I just need to make my mind up and know that I will eat after five hours, seven hours when I get home [from school],” said Amara, age 15, from inner London, whose family has no benefit entitlements due to their immigration status.
The research showed that just over half of parents in the study ate too little food, went hungry, skipped meals and/or used food banks.
One teenage girl, and her siblings, whose father was in a low-paid NHS job, had £2 per day to spend on food at school. She was sometimes forced to divide this so that she had £1 for a snack at break, and £1 for lunch, which meant she did not always eat a proper meal.
It also said that while some schools do not differentiate between pupils entitled to free school meals and those who pay, other schools identify children on free school meals in particular by restricting the food options that they could select.
‘It’s embarrassing, yeah, you have no money on your card and then you just watch them eat,’ said Gideon, age 15, in inner London, whose family also had unresolved immigration status and therefore not entitled to free school meals.
The study found that most children and parents were knowledgeable about dietary recommendations and many said they would like to be able to afford more fresh vegetables and fruit.
Just over half of the children who completed the question in the self-completion questionnaire reported eating vegetables at least 5-6 times a week and only just over a third reported eating fruit at least 5-6 times a week – far lower than the recommended five a day for fruit and vegetables.