Feeding Hungry Children in Our City over Christmas
I would like to thank Bristol City Council and its partners, some of whom I refer to below, for the efforts made over the summer and during the recent half-term break to ensure that children in our city were fed and did not go hungry. Led by FairShare SW, schools are supplied with food and the provision of breakfasts at school is especially valuable as are after school activities that include food.
Last night, 7th November, a TV programme showed the impact on children, families and on schools of completely running out of money to buy food, usually due to Universal Credit. This especially but not exclusively affects single parent families who cannot work full time with very young children.
Sadly, a children’s book about going to a Food Bank is even on sale which describes how a daughter observes how her mother worries about every penny of expenditure; “luckily, Mum isn’t hungry,” she says as she munches the last piece of toast in the house. The fact that similar situations occur in a prosperous city like Bristol shames us all.
More than 15 years ago, the Blair Government vowed to tackle child poverty and set targets for Government Departments to reach. These succeeded in raising many children out of poverty and gave them hope. These targets were scrapped by the Cameron Government which also made things far worse by the introduction of punitive Universal Credit – a misnomer if ever there was one!
Since 2012, we have witnessed the growth of food banks throughout the country including Bristol. Data has emerged e.g. that out of a class of 30, nine, yes 9, children will live in poverty and probably come to school hungry. And this is just an average figure across our city; in some deprived areas, that figure will be even higher. Feeding Bristol which was set up by Cllr Anna Keen said on 20th May 2019 that Bristol has the highest number of children claiming free school meals in the South West – at 20% amongst the highest proportion in the country.
Mayor Rees and Cllr Helen Godwin deserve praise for tackling this issue by backing up the free school dinners system by encouraging the spread of breakfast clubs across the city under the Council’s ‘No child should go to school hungry’ partnerships.
The concern is that everything shuts down at Christmas. There are always some who miss out. This is particularly heart breaking at this time of year. I would like to suggest that the City Council helps out Bristol Foodbanks by setting up donation points in all Council Offices, including this building, City Hall, with wide publicity so that the better off citizens of Bristol can conveniently drop off food, hygiene products and new toys to give Bristol’s children living in poverty a hunger-free Christmas.