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New data reveals extent of food insecurity among families with children

10 Sep 2020
New data from the Food Foundation reveals that 13.6% of adults living with children reported experiences of moderate or severe food insecurity in the past six months. Four million people live in these affected households, including 2.3m children.

The figure remains higher than the recorded pre-Covid-19 levels of 11.5% of households with children.

Ten percent of parents/guardians, responsible for an estimated 1.9m children, reported that food insecurity had affected their children in a variety of ways in the last six months forcing them to rely on only a few kinds of low cost food to feed their children (6%), provide unbalanced meals (5%), and to resort to smaller portions (1%) or skipping meals entirely (2%).

The data, taken from a YouGov survey commissioned by The Food Foundation, demonstrates the need for urgent action to address the high numbers of families experiencing food insecurity, according to Anna Taylor, executive director of Food Foundation.

“The Government’s furlough scheme, increase in Universal Credit payments and the extension to Free School Meal vouchers throughout the summer holidays were necessary stopgap measures to prevent the situation worsening.

“While 30-day food insecurity rates have improved since the first few months of lockdown, the data confirms the need for long-lasting policy measures to be implemented to ensure parents and children have access to a healthy diet.”

Manchester United and England international footballer Marcus Rashford’s new Child Food Poverty Task Force has enlisted the support of national supermarkets including Aldi, Asda, Co-op, Iceland, Lidl, Sainsbury’s, Tesco and Waitrose, as well as food brands Heinz and Kellogg’s, online food delivery service Deliveroo, and charities The Food Foundation and Fareshare, to endorse three policy recommendations,  included in Henry Dimbleby’s Part 1, National Food Strategy, ahead of The Chancellor’s  Budget and Spending Review.

Taylor said the new data from The Food Foundation highlighted the urgency with which the Government needed to act.

“The situation for families and their children is precarious. It’s vital that the economic measures that have been put into place to protect struggling families are maintained and increased further in the autumn budget, given the economic scenario we are facing.

“Too many families are missing out with devastating, life-long impacts on our children. Our data shows that government action really matters and has a direct impact on people’s lives and the future health and wellbeing of our children.”

Rashford added: “As a sportsman, I have always found such power in unity and teamwork, and I’m thrilled that such influential voices have put any allegiance aside to join me on my mission to move the conversation of child food insecurity forward.

“2.3m children have been living in food insecure households over the last six months.  The Task Force stand together to offer these vulnerable children the platform they need to have their voices heard. I encourage everyone to stop and listen.

“The time for action is now. I’m proud and I’m humbled to see such a reaction and commitment from the food industry, and I am confident that together we can help change the lives of those most vulnerable for the better.”

The three National Food Strategy policy recommendations the Task Force wants to see acted on to support our most vulnerable children are:

  • Expand eligibility for the Free School Meal scheme to include every child (up to the age of 16) from a household where the parent or guardian is in receipt of Universal Credit (or equivalent benefits1). Under this recommendation an estimated additional 1.5 million 7-16 year olds would benefit from Free School Meals.
  • Extend the Holiday Activity and Food Programme to all areas in England, so that summer holiday support is available to all children in receipt of Free School Meals.
  • Increase the value of Healthy Start vouchers to £4.25 per week and expand the scheme to every pregnant woman and to all households with children under 4 where a parent or guardian is in receipt of Universal Credit or equivalent benefits.