One in five London parents fear their children could go hungry this summer holiday

(Jonathan Brady/PA) (PA Wire)
(Jonathan Brady/PA) (PA Wire)

More than one in five London parents are worried about how they will feed their family this summer holiday amid sky-high food costs, a new survey has found.

One mum told the Standard she is “very, very worried” that her sons, who already skip meals during term-time, will go hungry during the six-week break when free school lunches are no longer available.

Of 500 London parents surveyed by credit management company Lowell, 22 per cent said they too are worried about how they will feed their families this summer.

And with the capital suffering the worst childcare shortages in the country and the highest prices, nearly 30 per cent said they are worried about how they will afford childcare, while 15 per cent anticipated having to take unpaid leave from work to care for children.

“I’m very, very worried about the summer holiday,” Fiona*, a single mum to two sons aged nine and 12, told the Standard.

“This morning, my son went to school without breakfast,” said the 29-year-old, who lives in North Kensington and relies on food banks since she is unable to work due to health issues.

”He’s going to come from school now, and he’s going to come home hungry.

“I have some apples. I’m going to ask him to only have one because he needs to eat another one tomorrow. Then later he’s going to have dinner, and that’s it.”

During the holidays, Fiona gets no extra support and her situation worsens. Amid soaring food costs, she found the bumper bank holidays this month a struggle.

“I go to to Tesco and I see the prices and it’s depressing,” she said. “It’s very, very stressful.

“I’m skipping meals. [My children] are skipping meals, because there’s not enough.”

Fiona says the looming summer holiday will be “depressing” for her and her sons, as she is unable to afford day trips and activities.

“But my fear is the food,” she added. “I’m an adult - I’ll be OK. But I want my children to have enough food.”

Laurence Guinness, chief executive of London child poverty charity The Childhood Trust, said Fiona is far from alone.

“Parents who are already struggling with growing levels of debt are dreading the impending summer holidays and are anxious that their children won’t be accepted onto a free or subsidised play scheme or summer club.”

He said that with demand exceeding supply, not getting access to childcare services will leave children “exposed to violence, sexual exploitation, hunger and loneliness as they wander the streets or stay indoors,” he said.

“For parents who have to take unpaid time off it means even less household income, adding further to their stress and anxiety levels,” he said, adding that the summer break could affect children whose mental health is being affected by poverty.

Research carried out by The Childhood Trust found that around around one in five London children aged seven to 16 were “food insecure” as of November, meaning they had gone hungry in the previous month because their family was short of cash.

Emma Newbury, senior research manager at national food bank charity The Trussell Trust,

Senior research manager Emma Newbury said: “Right now [social security is] not providing enough income to cover the cost of life’s essentials, with most people at food banks in receipt of Universal Credit.

“We’re calling on the UK government to create an ‘Essentials Guarantee’ to make sure that the basic rate of Universal Credit is at least enough to afford the essentials we all need, such as food, household bills and travel costs.”

Responding, a Government spokesperson said: “Over a third of pupils in England now receive free school meals in education settings, compared with one in six in 2010.

“On top of this, our Holiday Activities and Food programme, backed by £200 million per year to 2025, provides heathy meals, enriching activities and free childcare places to children from low-income families over the holidays.

“We are committed to helping the most vulnerable and that’s why we have provided an extra £1 billion to the Household Support Fund to help with essential costs including food, clothing and utilities.”

*name has been changed to protect her anonymity