UK News 'You shouldn't be worrying about how you feed your child': The growing hunger crisis caused by COVID-19

23:20  30 october  2020
23:20  30 october  2020 Source:   news.sky.com

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A Global Food Crisis Looms. The world has never faced a hunger emergency like this, experts say. The world has experienced severe hunger crises before, but those were regional and caused by one factor or another — extreme weather, economic downturns It showed you how hungry they are .”

As Covid - 19 continues to stalk the globe, food insecurity in vulnerable societies has begun to rise. A hunger crisis , predicted to get much worse by the fall, is already beginning in Guatemala because of the loss of income caused by pandemic lockdowns and the related disruption of food production and

"Every child has the right to be fed," says charity worker Helen Needham as she packs tins and fruit into white plastic bags.

a person sitting at a fruit stand: Fresh food at the Foleshill Community Centre in Coventry © Other Fresh food at the Foleshill Community Centre in Coventry

"No child should be going hungry in 2020 and we have a responsibility to make sure that doesn't happen."

At Foleshill Community Centre in north Coventry, they've registered 500 new individuals for the "social supermarket" since March.

a woman wearing a costume: Charity worker Helen Needham says 'no child should be going hungry in 2020' © Other Charity worker Helen Needham says 'no child should be going hungry in 2020'

Users pay £4 for a subsidised bag of food, but the Feeding Britain charity also offers free food parcels for struggling families during half term.

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COVID - 19 is deepening the hunger crisis in the world’s hunger hotspots and creating new epicentres of hunger across the globe. By the end of the While governments must act to contain the spread of this deadly disease, Oxfam is also calling for urgent action to end this hunger crisis and build fairer

a person standing in a room: Two-year-old Rose collecting provisions © Other Two-year-old Rose collecting provisions

When Helen opens the doors at 10am, first inside is toddler Rose, dressed in pink ribboned socks and a tutu, followed by her mother, Sarah.

The mum of five says she has an income of £87 a week and without the food bank they would have to go further into debt or "go without".

Rose doesn't qualify for child tax credits because she was born after the two child limit was introduced.

Sarah says: "I've been scraping to make ends meet, deciding which bill to pay or what to buy. You shouldn't be worrying about how you feed your child. Then people have a go at you, but they obviously haven't been in that situation."

Half term has come and gone and despite mounting pressure, the government has held fast to its decision not to extend the free school meal voucher system.

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How you can help US food banks in the Covid - 19 pandemic. Even before the Covid - 19 pandemic, more than 40 million Americans relied on food banks to get enough to eat. The Feeding America network of 200 food banks secures and distributes 4.3 billion meals each year through 60,000 food

Marcus Rashford's petition against that decision has passed a million signatures and the economic forecast gets ever gloomier.

A series of surveys has illustrated the growing hunger crisis caused by COVID-19.

Last month, standard life reported that 18% of households had used credit to pay for food.

This month, the Food Foundation discovered there was heightened demand for free school meals, with 900,000 children newly registered to the scheme.

a person standing in front of a window: The government is being urged to use a policy in its manifesto to help provide food © Other The government is being urged to use a policy in its manifesto to help provide food

But still there's an impasse in the politics of hunger, with no clear answer as to what can be done.

Lord Field of Birkenhead, a former Labour MP and founder of the all-parliamentary group on hunger and food poverty, has made a surprising suggestion.

a person standing in front of a food truck: Marcus Rashford helping out at FareShare Greater Manchester © PA Marcus Rashford helping out at FareShare Greater Manchester

He has told Sky News the answer for Boris Johnson is sitting in the Conservative manifesto.

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Lord Field's charity, Feeding Britain, has been holding meetings with government departments and he points to a £1bn pledge made during the 2019 general election.

Casual observers of the campaign could be forgiven for thinking the Conservatives had promised little more than to "get Brexit done", but their manifesto also promised: "We will establish a new £1bn fund to help create more high quality, affordable childcare, including before and after school and during the school holidays."

The cash boost for childcare was due to be spread out over five years, beginning next summer, but Lord Field describes it as "a lovely let out for the government" and adds: "We've met with the government and we've met with activists and we are helping the government to plan out how to spend that billion pounds on this anti-hunger campaign.

"We must get something for Christmas and bring forward its billion pound scheme from the summer to the Easter holidays."

To date, the government's furlough scheme has done much to stem the flow, giving 80% of wages to employees temporarily out of work.

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So today, with COVID - 19 , I want to stress that we are not only facing a global health pandemic but also a global humanitarian catastrophe. But this is only in my opinion only the first part of the strategy needed to protect conflict-riven countries from a hunger pandemic caused by the Coronavirus.

“For many people, Covid - 19 comes as a crisis on top of a crisis . To break the cycle of hunger , governments must build fairer and more sustainable food systems that ensure small-scale producers and workers earn a living wage.” Oxfam said countries with existing problems

But that scheme ends this week, to be replaced by a more complex and less well funded version.

The government has also added £20 a week to Universal Credit and offered food vouchers over the summer holidays to families with children who qualify for free school meals.

Last week, Labour lost a motion in parliament to extend the free school meal voucher system into the Christmas holidays.

Many Conservatives argued that this was a "sticking plaster" solution that would "increase dependency" and there had to be other ways to deal with child poverty beyond handing out food.

Many charities agree with the sentiment that free food isn't the ultimate answer - families should be able to afford to buy it.

Paul Morrison, a policy advisor to the Methodist Church says: "Essentially, Universal Credit doesn't provide enough for families to live on - there are lots of reasons for that."

He lists the two child rule, differing rent costs across the country and a gig economy that's failed to play its part in pulling people out of poverty.

A group of churches conducted a study on the impact of coronavirus on family incomes and found it applied pressure to a system that was already cracked.

People in lower income jobs were more likely to lose them or see wages cut, but also poorer people experienced a "COVID inflation" on their food prices as it became harder to shop around for cut-price deals.

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Prior to the virus, some families spent 10 hours a week shopping for bargains.

Mr Morrison says: "Before the lockdown, many families were just about making ends meet - but often families were doing it by shopping at one shop, and shopping at another and waiting for the yellow stickers to come on for the sale items at the end of the day - and it was by that slender thread that their budget made sense. Now it's much harder to do that."

Food bank users in Coventry agree, saying there is greater demand for the products and the bargain aisles "get crowded".

Conservative MP and chair of the Education Select Committee, Robert Halfon, voted against his government last week, supporting Labour's motion in the commons to extend the food voucher scheme.

However, he believes the system is not a permanent solution and the £1bn childcare pledge could be accelerated.

He told Sky News: "As I understand it, the children's minister and Number 10 are working on a plan to combat hunger, but we have to have that plan in place before Christmas.

"This is a matter of urgency - it should have been done over the summer. I hope in the spending round next month, the chancellor lays out how that billion pounds is going to be spent and how it is going to be used to combat child hunger."

Mr Halfon believes that every government policy should now be assessed for its impact on addressing social injustice and how it affects child poverty.

He says the government needs to gather the data on how much child hunger there is in the UK.

He adds "This is nothing to do with parents being irresponsible. The real life of people on low pay is something we have to understand as a party."

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