Please select your region  
Global contacts

We operate in more than 50 countries around the world. If your country is not on the list, please refer to our global contacts.

View contacts
Global contacts

We operate in more than 50 countries around the world. If your country is not on the list, please refer to our global contacts.

View contacts
Global contacts

We operate in more than 50 countries around the world. If your country is not on the list, please refer to our global contacts.

View contacts
Global contacts

We operate in more than 50 countries around the world. If your country is not on the list, please refer to our global contacts.

View contacts
Global contacts

We operate in more than 50 countries around the world. If your country is not on the list, please refer to our global contacts.

View contacts
News
Food_Insecurity_464x207

How food insecurity is threatening the health of our nation’s children

Steve Kemp, Sector Director for ISS Education Schools discusses the rising problem of food insecurity in Britain
As we approach the start of the new school term, children everywhere will be making the most of their last days of freedom, and parents will be busying themselves organising new uniforms and school supplies. But many families will be breathing a sigh of relief as the summer holiday means struggling to pay for an extra meal every day for six weeks. Across the United Kingdom, food insecurity has become a serious issue. More than 4 million children in the UK live below the breadline [1] and in a recent survey of support workers, 53% saw families unable to afford food and childcare during the holidays [2]

Parents find themselves forced to use food banks and skip meals to make sure their children can eat. During term time, a school lunch might be the only hot meal a child eats that day, so we can only assume that those same children are going without during the holidays. For those who rely on free school meals, the holidays represent another meal each day they have to cater for. This may be a small thing for some families, but for those whose budgets are already stretched another few pounds a day is a real stretch. In 2018-19, food bank use escalated throughout the year with a 19% total increase, and UK food banks have predicted this year as the busiest summer yet [3]

As of January 2019, 15.4% of pupils were eligible for and claiming free school meals. This is the highest proportion since 2014, reversing the downward trend [4]. During term time we provide nutritionally balanced school food, promote wellbeing and food education, but children are not getting enough of the right food and healthy messaging outside term time. As such we do as much as we can to help by running holiday clubs, where children can join in fun activities and get a healthy meal, but without government funding there’s only so much we can do. Obesity and malnutrition, which disproportionately impact lower income households, also have roots in food poverty. In 2017/2018, 20% of year six children were classified as obese, and prevalence of obesity was over twice as high in the most deprived areas than the least deprived areas [5]. It is understandable that families buy large quantities of food for the lowest price, to make sure that there is enough to go around. But this will often mean that the balanced school meal a child gets in term time is replaced with foods high in fat, salt, sugar, and lacking in nutrients.

The issue is deeper than a lack of food, and families can find it difficult to break free from food insecurity if, for example, there are delays to benefits or a family member experiences a health issue that stops them from working. Many food banks have been widening their services to address the causes of poverty within the community. From running holiday clubs to budgeting courses, families in crisis can seek extra support from these organisations. Food banks are already stretched, and with the Brexit date looming things are only looking more dismal for those who rely on them. One key part of the solution is for the Government to increase levels of funding to support social feeding either through the school meal infrastructure, holiday feeding initiatives or food bank entities all of whom could ensure that our children are fed healthy nutritious meals on a regular basis throughout the year. Disruption to food supply chains will mean less food on the supermarket shelves and stockpiling by households and businesses means much-needed donations towards food banks will probably decline [6]

If we are going to protect the health our children now and into the future, action needs to be taken to address this growing issue. We must ensure that vulnerable families have access to the resources and knowledge to give their children the best chance at growing into healthy, happy adults.


[1] https://www.theguardian.com/society/2019/jul/15/destitution-on-the-rise-say-frontline-family-support-workers 

[2] https://www.buttleuk.org/research/what-it-is-really-like-for-children-growing-up-in-poverty-in-the-uk-in-2019 

[3] https://www.trusselltrust.org/2019/07/16/uk-food-banks-fear-busiest-summer-ever-ahead/ 

[4] https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/812539/Schools_Pupils_and_their_Characteristics_2019_Main_Text.pdf 

[5] https://digital.nhs.uk/data-and-information/publications/statistical/statistics-on-obesity-physical-activity-and-diet/statistics-on-obesity-physical-activity-and-diet-england-2019 

[6] https://www.newstatesman.com/politics/brexit/2019/08/why-no-deal-brexit-could-be-calamitous-food-banks 

Get in touch...

steve-kemp-contact-teaser-224

Have you got any ideas or suggestions on other steps school food providers can take to help support healthy schools? 

Please email us