Why we’re supporting efforts to tackle ‘holiday hunger’ (and why you should too)

Our youth workers have been aware of the issues surrounding holiday hunger for a long time, but we have noticed that the problem has worsened in recent years. When many of our children struggle to get enough food during term, it’s clear to us that the problem will be worse during the holidays.

“That is why this campaign is so important to us, and the city of Bristol. We hope as many businesses as possible help us to tackle this crisis and stop thousands of children and young people going without meals this summer.”

Matt Donnelly, Young Bristol.

A couple of months ago, we started working with a Bristol charity who were set on tackling a crisis affecting huge numbers of families across the city.

Feeding Bristol was set up a couple of years ago to respond to the urgent need to help thousands (yes, thousands) of the city’s schoolchildren avoid long periods without a meal.

Many people are aware of the growth in food banks in recent years and have heard of tough choices some parents face over whether to feed their children or heat the house. But I was unaware of the extent of the challenge facing the city until I met the charity in May to discuss its campaign.

Holiday hunger in Bristol

The charity believes that more than 20,000 Bristol kids face going hungry during the summer holidays once free school meals stop for six weeks later this month. They bid for government funding to provide food for kids across the city, but recently found out that that the money isn’t coming to Bristol.

So about two months before the schools break up, led by their chairman Andy Street, the charity put a call out to Bristol’s businesses: help us tackle Bristol’s ‘holiday hunger’ crisis.

We were happy to support the campaign, although there have been some doubts expressed online. Some people are (rightly) dismayed that such a campaign should be necessary in 2019. Others ask why the government doesn’t intervene. And how can it be right that local authorities must bid for funding to provide food to young people? These are valid points, and I agree. I’ve got kids, and I’ve been cooking with them today. I couldn’t comprehend having to choose between feeding them and putting money into the electricity meter. But these comments don’t address the ‘here and now’.

Tweeting about how disgraceful it is doesn’t help a single child avoid ‘holiday hunger’ this year. Supporting the campaign will.

Matt Donnelly who works for an organisation called Young Bristol has described the anxiety and foreboding at the club he works at when food deliveries arrive later than expected. When is happens, he says it isn’t long before some children ask: “Are we going to get fed today?”

Stories like this highlight how Bristol, for all the stories about economic growth and people flocking from London to live here, has too many people who don’t share in its success. If ‘inclusive growth’ means anything, ensuring that children in one of the country’s most successful cities are fed and healthy is a good place to start.

The campaign has struck a chord with many people in the city, and beyond. It’s been great to see the response that it has generated since its launch.

Reasons to support the campaign

Still need convincing? Here are some reasons why the campaign is worth supporting:

  • Bristol has the highest number of children claiming free school meals in the South West, at almost 11,000. At 20%, this is proportionately among the highest in the country.
  • A Parliamentary investigation has found that children affected by holiday hunger return to school in a worse educational, health and developmental state than that in which they had left in the summer.
  • Feeding Bristol is working to provide thousands of meals to children and their families through a network of activities and holiday clubs on all 30 weekdays of the summer holidays.
  • This year the charity aims to increase meal delivery to 67,000 meals during the holiday period.

We’ve supported the campaign by getting the local media involved and providing social media content, which has been well responded to. Thanks to the journalists who have have taken an interest and those who have shared details with supporters. An official launch was well attended by local businesses and dozens have pledged support to help Feeding Bristol hit its funding target. The charity is looking for £100,000 for this summer.

There’s a hell of a lot to be done still, and you can be sure to see more updates in the coming weeks. Until then, you can give through this page. Every penny goes towards funding activities in Bristol this summer.

Photo by Thought Catalog on Unsplash