One in five UK schools has established a food bank since the start of the coronavirus pandemic to support struggling local families, according to a survey that highlights how deeply the Covid crisis has affected the standard of living of many. , especially in disadvantaged areas.
A fifth of teachers said their school had started a food bank, more than a third said their school delivered food parcels to students’ homes, and more than a quarter had breakfast clubs, some even for vulnerable students who were unable to attend schools during the closure.
A third of teachers believe that their schools have become key providers of Covid social support services for families in poverty, often funding this additional support from school budgets, with the help of local charities, groups of parents and teachers and advice.
More than a quarter of teachers said they personally kept private food and snack stores in a cupboard or desk to give to hungry students on an ad hoc basis, while 5% of teachers said their school had made loans of emergency to parents.
The findings come amid concerns about a projected rise in poverty levels in the fall, when leave of absence work support and Covid’s £ 20-a-week recharge for universal credit, which will affect the budgets of many low-income households and pushing an additional 500,000 people below the bread line.
Charitable food aid has increased considerably during the pandemic economic crisis. Trussell Trust, the UK’s largest food bank network, delivered nearly 50% more food parcels in the first half of last year and warned of the dangers of food parcels becoming ‘normalized’ in response to poverty.
The YouGov survey, commissioned by the food company Kellogg’s, surveyed 1,100 primary and secondary school teachers across the UK in February. Kellogg’s funds breakfast clubs in underserved areas and provides food to the charity FareShare.
“The results of this survey did not surprise me; we work in really economically vulnerable areas and there is a lot of deprivation. We knew that due to the lockdown, many of our students and their families would need additional support, ”said Sarah Wardle, Assistant Director of Benfield School, Newcastle upon Tyne.
Wardle said that Benfield, where 65% of children receive free school meals, had organized breakfast clubs for all children during the pandemic and did not expect the need for additional food supplies to decrease in the near future. “Covid has highlighted inequalities and shown where we need to improve services for vulnerable people,” he said.
The Kellogg survey found that of the teachers who felt their school had assumed a more important family support role during the pandemic, 61% believed that local family incomes had decreased due to the coronavirus and 57% felt that families were struggling to manage your finances under lock and key.
More than half of the teachers surveyed, 56%, felt that the government had not done enough to support struggling families during the pandemic, while 46% called for an increase in universal credit and 55% believed that the value of food stamps given to families with school meals should be increased. About 28% of the teachers thought that more food banks should be opened.
The schools had also provided a variety of other services, from fruit and vegetable delivery to emotional support provided by family liaison teams. Almost three-quarters of the schools had delivered non-food items, such as computer equipment, to students’ homes during the closure.
According to the Food Foundation expert group, food insecurity has increased mostly among the poorest families with school-age children during the pandemic. Four out of 10 families with children with free school meals experienced food insecurity in the past six months, compared to 12% of all households with children.
Reliance on charity food was also higher among families with children who received free school meals, the foundation reported this week. Almost a third of this group (32%) used food banks during December and January, compared with 13% of all children during the same period.
A government spokesperson said: “We have made it clear that we will support all children eligible for free school meals while learning remotely during the school term and we have increased the funding we give to schools to continue to ensure that eligible students receive food, either through lunch packs, local coupons, or our national coupon program.
“Increased support for school children is also available through our Breakfast Club program, through the School Fruits and Veggies program, and through our significant investment in food distribution charities, including FareShare.
“We know that many vulnerable families are struggling, that is why we have increased the living wage, increased social support by billions and introduced the Covid winter scholarship plan to ensure children and families are warm and fed. In April we will increase the value of our Healthy Start vouchers by more than a third to help those in need with young children. “
‘A good breakfast changes your mood and mentality’
Last october Willowtown Community Elementary School at Ebbw Vale decided to modify its annual harvest festival benefit event; Instead of collecting produce for the entire city, she would focus support on the families of her own hungry students.
“We started a food bank for our school,” said Willowtown principal Melanie Evans. As the pandemic skyrocketed and the need grew, those food packages became increasingly important and the food bank quickly became “a weekly item.”
The school in South Wales is no stranger to pupil deprivation. But this crisis was deeper and broader. “We have seen an increase in the demand for help from parents who we think would not normally have needed support due to job losses,” he said.
Approximately 50 families a week receive support through the school food bank, approximately one in 10 of all students. The contents of the food packages (bread, pasta and basic goods, plus some goodies) are supplied by local supermarkets, with donations from local families.
Evan believes that this provision of additional food support by the school, along with outreach support from its three-person family liaison team (and, more broadly, help for families through the benefits system), is vital to ensure that you can continue to provide your basic services. educational paper.
“When [the children] They have had a good breakfast or lunch, it changes their mood and way of thinking. Your well-being is our priority and we have to get it right before starting the academic journey, ”Evans said.
Despite the green shoots of optimism that have come from the vaccination, Evans believes that school food packages are here for the immediate future: “Hopefully things change with the relief of the pandemic. But we always serve families in need. The food bank will be a long-term project ”.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism