One in four teachers giving extra food to hungry students, charity says

Children coming to school with little to no food in their lunch bag, staff warn

Holly Bancroft
Social Affairs Correspondent
Thursday 31 August 2023 05:38 BST
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One in four teachers in England have personally provided food to their hungry students because they were concerned about their welfare, new analysis from a food poverty charity suggests.

One school manager warned that staff were giving up their own food or buying food for children to help them quench their hunger and concentrate during lessons.

Charity FareShare, which provides food to 2,000 programmes that support children and young people, surveyed around 9,000 teachers from across the country.

Some 29.4 per cent of teachers in the South West said they had personally provided food for pupils in the 2023 summer term – the highest proportion in England. This was compared with 28.7 per cent in the North West, 25.7 per cent in Yorkshire and Humber and 25.6 per cent in the Midlands.

FareShare, which takes surplus food and delivers it to community groups, school breakfast clubs and homeless shelters, said it was struggling to keep up with demand – and has over 1,500 charities on its waiting list.

“We still do not have enough food to meet skyrocketing demand, and teachers across the country feel they have no choice but to step in to help hungry children,” CEO George Wright said. “Our teachers should be teaching, not forced to fill the gap because the government stands by and allows this to happen all the while food goes to waste on farms,” he added.

Kelly Stallwood, deputy manager at Buzzee Beez Preschool in Harlow, Essex, said: “We are in a deprived area so we see the struggles some of our families are going through. The staff have been known to give up their food or purchase food for a child when they have come into the setting hungry or they have little to no lunch in their lunch bag.”

It comes after a survey of frontline staff by Buttle UK revealed that rising poverty was keeping children out of school as they worried they would be bullied for not being able to afford well-fitting clothes. Social workers warned that they were seeing children steal food from supermarkets because they were so hungry.

There are an estimated 4.2 million children living in poverty, according to the Child Poverty Action Group.
There are an estimated 4.2 million children living in poverty, according to the Child Poverty Action Group. (PA)

One college teacher said: “Students have been arriving at college having not eaten since the previous day and coming into college on non-taught days to eat, charge their phone and have someone to talk to.”

Another education worker said: “I have worked with a number of families where the parents are not feeding themselves to ensure the children have food. I have to access food parcels for them so they can eat but often food parcels are very basic and families don’t have the knowledge and understanding to make meals with the items provided.”

The Independent’s Feed the Future campaign has been calling for free school meals to be extended to all schoolchildren in England – both primary and secondary – who live in households on universal credit but miss out on free school meals because their household income exceeds the threshold.

There are an estimated 4.2 million children living in poverty, according to the Child Poverty Action Group. In the 2021-22 period, 350,000 more children were pulled into relative poverty as rates rose across the UK.

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 and we have extended eligibility several times to more groups of children than any other government over the past half a century. This includes introducing new eligibility criteria for families receiving Universal Credit, to ensure even more children were eligible for a free school meal.”

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