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The United Nations humanitarian aid organisation UNICEF have been forced to launch a ‘domestic emergency response’ to help feed hungry children in the United Kingdom for the first time since its founding in 1946.
The UN organisation has pledged tens of thousands of pounds in funding to help provide breakfast boxes to hungry children in South London over the Christmas holidays.
The £25,000 grant will be made to fund a joint initiative between two local charities – Food School Matters and Food Power – who will partner with Premier Foods and local authorities to help provide breakfast boxes to 1,800 children in the area.
The charity say they will deliver 18,000 nutritious breakfasts to 25 schools around the borough, with each box containing enough food for 10 meals.
According to a YouGov poll commissioned by the Food Foundation charity, around 2,400,000 children across the UK were living in ‘food insecure’ households as of May 2020 – and it is likely that this figure will now be even higher due to the extended economic fallout of the ongoing pandemic.
In addition, the shocking poll also found that:
- The number of households with children experiencing poverty and isolation-driven food insecurity has doubled since lockdown begun
- More than 200,000 children were forced to skip meals because their family couldn’t access sufficient food during lockdown.
- 17% of parents in NHS worker families have had smaller meals than usual or have had to skip meals, and 9% have not eaten for a whole day due to lack of access to food
Speaking about their unprecedented decision to help feed children in the UK, UNICEF UK spokesperson Anna Kettley told Sky News:
“We feel it’s critical to come together at this time. It’s the first time which we’re recognising that this is an unprecedented situation which requires everyone to roll their sleeves up, step in and support children and families that need it most at this time.”
And the founder and CEO of School Food Matters, Stephanie Slater, said:
“The response to our summer Breakfast Boxes programme has shown us that families are really struggling and many were facing the grim reality of a two-week winter break without access to free school meals and the indignity of having to rely on food banks to feed their children. By providing our Breakfast Boxes, families know that their children will have a great start to the day with a healthy nutritious breakfast.”
“Our Breakfast Boxes programme has also shown us that the threshold for free school meal eligibility is too low to capture all the families in need of support. That’s why we’re getting behind the National Food Strategy call for an extension to free school meal eligibility. We cannot continue to rely on civil society to fill the hunger gap as too many children will miss out on the nutrition they need to thrive.”
School Food Matters say they will also be supporting families in South London with an additional 6,750 breakfasts over the February half term.
UNICEF was founded just after the end of the Second World War in order to “save children’s lives, to defend their rights, and to help them fulfil their potential, from early childhood through adolescence.“
The organisation state that they work “in over 190 countries and territories and in the world’s toughest places to reach the children and young people in greatest need.“
In its 70-year history, the organisation had never had to intervene in the UK – the fifth richest country in the world. Until now.