In summer 2023 the UK Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology published a report on Child food insecurity and Free School Meals. According to their findings, a concerning 24% of households with children were living with food insecurity in 2023. This statistic underscores the widespread effects of child food insecurity in the country and sheds light on widespread challenges faced by families in ensuring their children receive consistent and adequate access to nutritious meals. The significance of Free School meals emerges prominently within the report, as they play a pivotal role in mitigating food poverty among children across the UK.
The report identifies the escalating prevalence of families experiencing food poverty and the reduction of free school meals and emphasises the deficiencies in the 2022 Government Food Strategy’s efforts to tackle the issue of child food poverty. It serves as a poignant reminder of the extensive efforts required by our social enterprise and VCSE partners to support communities nationwide. Furthermore, the data reiterates that the government, on its own, is unable to effectively tackle and alleviate food poverty. Inadequate funding and exclusive means-testing have led to a situation where more children are experiencing reduced access to Free School Meals.
The increasingly exclusive nature of means-testing is exemplified by the 2023 Child Poverty Action Group, which estimated that a third of school-age children living in poverty, approximately 900,000 children, did not meet the requirements for receiving Free School Meals. Further to this, the government’s allocation of just £5 million for a ‘school cooking revolution’, identified within the report, highlights the severe underfunding of current government initiatives addressing food poverty. While the government promises that this revolution will ensure every secondary school student learns how to cook six recipes, this funding translates to just £1,193 per school and approximately £1.21 per pupil, which is barely enough to cover a single meal per student.
To counter the growing issue of food poverty among families, Bounceback Food teams not only deliver nutritious meals to those most in need but also a wide range of cookery workshops & learning programmes. Last summer this also included initiatives such as our Holiday Hunger Campaign and Summer Holiday Cookalong Clubs. This outreach work specifically targeted the added challenges faced by families unable to provide their children with nutritious and balanced meals during the summer holidays. All of our cookery workshops and cookalongs are led by our community chefs who actively guide and support beneficiaries of all ages.
We are committed to staying responsive to new research, enhancing our focus on the fundamental aspects of food poverty, and addressing gaps in governmental strategy and funding wherever possible. While we distribute approximately 500 warm meals every week, we recognise that tackling food poverty is more than just the distribution of emergency meals. In emphasising the importance of a diverse and sustainable approach to addressing food poverty, we deliver cookery workshops for beneficiaries of all ages, abilities and circumstances. Furthermore, we provide a range of food sector employability programmes that are designed to equip individuals with skills aimed at alleviating poverty in the long term. These initiatives underline our commitment to long-term sustainability, extending our impact beyond the emergency provision of a meal.
Findings within the report have once again made clear that government funding alone (in particular at the current levels) will not adequately address food poverty among children across the UK – and that is why Bounceback Food needs your support!
Find out more about our work to tackle food poverty and food waste across the UK on our website where you can also get our latest news, learn more about ongoing projects and upcoming events. You can also contribute directly to the work of our Community Cookery School teams by making a donation via our crowdfunder or by signing up to become a volunteer. Thank you for your continued support!