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The families who can't afford to feed their children in the school holidays
11:40am Tuesday 20th August 2013 in News
STRUGGLING parents are turning to a food bank to feed their children during the summer holidays.
Families whose children are entitled to free school meals are in particular finding it difficult to provide the extra meals for their youngsters in the face of rising costs and benefit changes.Worcester Foodbank saw a 32 per cent rise in the number of families needing their services in the first two weeks of the summer holidays.
Manager Colin Whitehead said: “We’ve been very busy. Over the last two weeks we have seen a significant increase in the number of families using the foodbank.
“It’s understandable because if the average family has three children that’s an extra 15 meals a week which have to be budgeted for and a total of 90 meals over the six weeks.
“For a family on a low income whose children have their main meal at school they have to find these extra meals and it is a struggle, particularly with the length of the holiday.
“It puts a lot of pressure on families [the length of the holiday] especially as during Christmas there is a lot of support from Rotary clubs and other organisations.
“It is not just food they have to pay for during summer, they also have to try and entertain them as well, which can also put a lot of strain on budgets.”
About 9,000 pupils in Worcestershire are entitled to free school meals, out of the state school population of 75,000 children.
Mr Whitehead, a former teacher, called for schools to consider opening their canteens during the holidays to continue providing food for those children entitled to free school meals.
And he refuted Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith’s claim that the rise in demand at food banks nationally was due to better awareness rather than benefit cuts.
“Poverty has always been with us, people have always struggled but we have lost the crisis loan which helped people to pay their bills, there has been changes to benefits and the introduction of the ‘bedroom tax’,” he said.
“We’ve also had firms going under and people being made unemployed. We are seeing more people face real hardship and are trying our best to support them the best way we can.”
A spokesman for Worcestershire County Council urged parents to contact the Early Help Hub which would put them in touch with services that could offer extra support.
“For some families not being able to provide food for the family are symptoms of other underlying issues for example long standing debts,” he said.
“Early Help services are available to understand the root causes of family issues and empower families to find solutions to these issues with support.
“If the Early Help Hub was receiving a lot of enquiries relating to families struggling to feed themselves in a certain area, we would use this information as evidence to feed into the planning of early help services in that area.”
l Worcester Foodbank will now be able to hand out loaves of bread after a trustee paid for a new freezer.
Mr Whitehead said they were very grateful for the donation, which would particularly benefit their homeless clients.
“We have two or three people who live in tents as well as homeless people who have no cooking facilities. We were having to give them crackers but now we can give them loaves and jam, which will make a big difference.”
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