Mayor’s Fund for London Tackles School Holiday Hunger

By Jocelyn Levy | 2nd November 2020 | 7 min read

Across Britain, the issue of childhood hunger during school holidays is receiving increasingly more recognition. Now in London, the Mayor’s Fund for London charity has launched a new campaign to tackle the problem thought to affect around 500,000 children across the capital.

National concern

Similar programmes already exist in Scotland, provided by its government, and more recently the Welsh Assembly also approved the trial of a scheme that seeks to address the problem. Unfortunately, in England, we are yet to see such measures being taken across the nation.

However, perhaps because more light has been focused on the problem by the success of the Universal Infant Free School Meal (UIFSM) programme, a number of charities have looked to try to fill this gap and address childhood hunger during the school holidays.

The Mayor’s Fund for London Kitchen Social programme is a prime example and is aiming to raise £1 million so it can expand a trial that served seven boroughs last year. This revamp and expansion would seek to identify and support up to 330 community organisations, not only providing meals for children, but delivering some social development services too.

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan said:

“I welcome the Kitchen Social programme, which will help to tackle food inequality and provide London’s youngsters with healthy meals over the holidays, allowing them to flourish upon their return to school.”

Filling the gap

There is already a great deal of evidence that children who eat a good school lunch perform better than those who don’t – it gives them the energy to concentrate and achieve. It’s only logical therefore that the same effect takes place over the holiday periods. Those who come back undernourished after the school break are more likely to struggle. The Chief Executive of the Mayor’s Fund for London, Matthew Patten, said they had received strong anecdotal evidence about the problem from many teachers.

He said:

“Teachers report malnourished children returning to school after the holidays having fallen behind compared to their peers. “Many young people will never claw back this learning and health disadvantage to fulfil their potential.”

The importance of good healthy school meals can’t be underestimated for some families, that’s why UIFSM has been such a success in so many people’s eyes. But when that service is removed in the summer holidays, many families struggle to fill the gap. It’s good that the problem is gaining awareness and initiatives to fill the gap, like this one in London and the schemes in Scotland and Wales, are to be welcomed.