'Holiday poverty' leaving children without sufficient food supplies during school breaks
PUBLISHED: 08:00 29 April 2018
Weston-super-Mare children may be going without food during school holidays as their parents cannot afford to put extra meals on the table.
‘Holiday poverty’ is a big cause of families going to the town’s foodbank – and agencies have been asked to offer them more vouchers during school breaks.
Weston Foodbank, based in North Street, has revealed it helped 4,593 people in the past year with three days of emergency food, including 1,589 children.
Project manager Frederique Wigmore told the Mercury: “There has been a lot of holiday poverty.
“We do see more families over the holidays, and have noticed an increase in families struggling when there are no school meals.
“When there are children at home all day, it can have a big impact.
“We have done a lot of work with the schools and agencies to support families over the holidays.
“We encourage families to go to agencies for extra vouchers to cover the holidays.”
It is believed 30 per cent of children in the centre of Weston are growing up below the poverty line.
Figures from the End Child Poverty (ECP) coalition suggest 5,800 children in the Weston parliamentary constituency live in poverty, after housing costs, as families are feeling the squeeze of tax hikes and benefit freezes.
Many people visit the foodbank with issues about benefits, and adjusting to the new system, including the introduction of Universal Credit, which replaces a number of benefits with a single payment.
Frederique said she is still waiting to see what impact those changes may have.
The charity has seen a slight increase in foodbank users between April 2017 and March 2018 compared to the previous year.
However, it cannot compare the figures as it has changed how often it can provide food, from three vouchers a year to three every six months.
Foodbank charity The Trussell Trust, which Weston’s branch is a member of, says it has seen 16 per cent more people needing help across the South West.
Weston Foodbank is most in need of donations of tinned meat and fish, cereal, instant food such as Cup-a-Soup, and toiletries.
It also needs tinned custard and rice pudding.