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Labour MPs bid to tackle Holiday Hunger in Hull

Hull North MP Diana Johnson convenes a meeting today (Friday 2 February) to kick-start a scheme to help tackle the scandal of children going hungry during the school holidays.
 
In Hull North Diana Johnson MP wants to explore ways of dealing with holiday hunger in areas like Orchard Park and Greenwood, the fifth most deprived ward in England, where the most recent figures showed there to be 2,067 children living in poverty after housing costs – 46.45% of children.
 
With 20,730 children living in poverty across Hull, after housing costs, the initiative could then be rolled out across the city.
 
The meeting that Diana Johnson MP is hosting in Hull North will be attended by Frank Field MP and Hull West and Hessle MP Emma Hardy; along with representatives of businesses, charities like Hull Food Bank and Hull and Humber FareShare, churches, Hull City Council, the NHS and others.
 
Frank Field MP has been involved in a similar scheme, Feeding Birkenhead, in his Merseyside constituency and recently proposed the School Holidays (Meals and Activities) Bill to give local authorities the legal duty to ensure that children can have free food and activities in the school holidays. This advocated bringing in extra resources for holiday clubs from the Sugary Drinks Levy and led the Government to announce funding for local pilot schemes to test the benefits of providing free food and activities in school holidays.
 
A recent report from the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Hunger suggested allocating only £41.5m – one tenth of the Healthy Pupils Capital Programme that will be funded by the revenues from the sugary drinks levy – towards the provision of free meals and activity for children during school holidays. If this were divided equally between every local authority in England, Scotland, and Northern Ireland (the Welsh Government has already committed funding), this sum would deliver an annual budget of over £100,000 with which each local authority could counter holiday hunger. 
 
Alternatively, if this funding was targeted on deprived communities, this allocation would cover the annual cost of school-based provision for every child entitled to free school meals in those parts of England where more than one in five children are eligible.
 
Since 2004, Hull has been at the forefront of pioneering policies and research into improving the take-up of healthy school meals, an initiative eventually adopted nationally. In 2016 Hull successfully ran a holiday hunger scheme in four local schools.
 
Feeding Britain’s recently published report Ending Hunger in the Holidays, revealed that in excess of 187,000 meals were provided to children in the summer and October half term holidays last year, but stresses that this is only a drop in the ocean compared to the level of need. The report concluded: “Holiday clubs provide an urgently needed safety net to protect children from hunger and social isolation, but an incomplete one, and one that is increasingly strained”.
 
Frank Field MP said: ‘Feeding Birkenhead has registered success many times over in preventing child hunger during the holidays and ensuring poorer children in my constituency have the same opportunities as their more fortunate peers to undertake fun activities away from school. 
 
“We are now looking to extend this layer of protection, through Feeding Britain, to as many children as possible whose life chances would be boosted by free meals and activities during the holidays. To that end, we are hugely fortunate in this next phase of Feeding Britain’s anti-hunger programme to be able to draw upon the efforts of Diana Johnson as well as the various organisations and people of good will who wish to provide this service to children in Hull.”
 
Diana Johnson MP said: “It will be great to get a scheme going in Hull that pools the resources of the Council, the NHS, businesses and the voluntary sector to combat the scandal of children going hungry in school holidays. We can learn from what Frank Field has achieved in Birkenhead and from Hull’s own experience.
 
“Much pioneering work has been done in Hull over the past decade on getting greater take-up of healthy food in schools and it paid dividends locally in the fight against child obesity and improving results in the classroom. Now we must also look at what happens to disadvantaged children in the 13 weeks of school holidays each year.
 
“The most deprived areas of Hull like Orchard Park have felt the effects of austerity and squeezed incomes in recent years. Food poverty has increased, leading to a greater reliance on food banks, including from families with wage earners. We have seen more children going hungry in school holidays. I don’t want us to go back to the levels of poverty and ill-health last seen in the 1930s and for Hull children to have a less healthy future than their parents.
 
“Using a tiny fraction of the £520m the Government expects to raise from the Sugary Drinks Levy when it starts in April, pooled with resources from businesses and the charitable sector, could tackle this holiday hunger scandal and provide long term benefits to the UK economy and tax-payers.” 
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