Starving eight-year-old forced to steal tomato sauce sachets to make soup because he was so hungry

Food banks reaching crisis point due to rising demand, charities warn MSPs

Peter Stubley
Monday 29 October 2018 18:26
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Scottish parliament discuss extent of hunger in schools - in one case child eating tomato sauce

An eight-year-old boy was so hungry he stole tomato sauce sachets from school to make soup, according to charity workers battling child poverty in the UK.

The young pupil was referred to a local food bank in Glasgow after a teacher spotted him taking the packets from the canteen at lunchtime.

He later sent a letter to Crookston Community Group (CCG) saying: “Thank you for giving my mum food so we can eat.”

The incident was revealed by charity workers during a meeting of the Scottish Parliament’s Social Security Committee.

“We had a young child that was eating tomato sauce at school and then coming to us for food,” said Aziz Zeria, the CCG treasurer.

“Some situations are very, very critical and quite a high percentage of people who access our food banks are people who are on benefits and the issues are complex from debt to housing to mental health.”

Suzanne McGlone, a worker with the CCG, told the Evening Times it was actually at “the lower end of the scale.”

“He was mixing the sachets with boiling water to make soup because there was nothing else,” she explained.

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“The parents had really bad mental health issues. When they were identified, we delivered food parcels and made sure the tins had ring pulls so the little lad could open them himself.”

Ms McGlone described child poverty as an “epidemic” and said they had fed between 40 and 60 children every week during the school holidays.

Food banks and other services are reaching “crisis point” because of rising demand, the committee heard.

“We have seen a huge increase in the number of families and about third of our recipients are children,” said Joyce Leggatt, who runs another food bank in Kirkcaldy.

She told the committee: “Over the school holidays we had quite an increase. A number of children were opening stuff up to see what they could eat on the way home, a packet of biscuits, or some bread.

“It is really quite shocking to see that level of hunger in children.”

Demand at Trussell Trust food banks across Scotland has also increased by up to 80 per cent following the introduction of Universal Credit, the committee heard.

“There is no doubt that food banks save lives,” said Laura Ferguson, of the Trussell Trust charity. “They provide emotional support, they provide wraparound services to help people in their situation.”

But she warned that food banks could not be relied on to “pick up the pieces of a failed welfare state.”

“We cannot further institutionalise food banks,” she said. “They do do amazing work but they just can not be here forever.”

A recent study found nearly four million children in the UK are too poor to eat healthily.

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