Children could go hungry over Easter holidays in pandemic crisis, Mayor’s charity warns

Thousands of schoolchildren are at risk of going hungry over the Easter school holidays during the pandemic because they aren’t eligible for the government’s food voucher scheme, it has emerged.

The food crisis has led to a call from the largest provider of children’s meals for more support to help 200,000 youngsters who are at risk of going without.

The Mayor’s Fund for London independent children’s charity fears there is a gap between the 400,000 youngsters identified in a 2019 GLA survey who live in “food insecurity” and almost 200,000 more who don’t qualify for the voucher scheme.

The 200,000 are from low income families with household earnings just over the threshold for free school meals.

The charity launches an emergency fundraising appeal today to support its network of community groups and youth clubs that would normally deliver food and supplies.

Distribution centres set up for the school holidays include the Romford YMCA at Rush Green, three primary schools in Poplar, Hackney’s Manor House Development Trust and Islington’s Paradise Park children’s centre.

“Far fewer children from low income backgrounds will be able to get nutritious food this Easter,” Mayor’s Fund chief executive Kirsty McHugh warns.

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“The government voucher scheme is welcome, but has been slow to get off the ground. Many youngsters simply won’t qualify.”

The fund says it “desperately needs to raise money and support” to help reach all children. Just £33 can help feed 10 children for one day, it points out.

Its food distribution programme is part of the London Food Alliance to make sure nutritious surplus food is directed to those who need it most. Supporting the Easter operation is Thomas Franks school caterers who are supplying meals including sandwiches, salads, fruits and snacks, delivered fresh daily.

The Mayor’s Fund for London is a non-political charity that gives youngsters a safe place to go during the school holidays where they can make friends and get a healthy free meal. It has delivered food and activities through 122 hubs across London since 2017, providing almost 100,000 meals to 21,000 youngsters. The Mayor of London is its patron.