Professor Greta Defeyter (left) and Dr Pam Graham (right)
The All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Hunger is looking into the extent of hunger amongst children during the school holidays, as well as the impact it has on their life choices. Experts on children’s holiday hunger from the Healthy Living Research Lab at Northumbria University, Newcastle presented to a group of MPs who are leading an inquiry into the issue.
Led by Professor Greta Defeyter, Faculty Associate Pro-Vice Chancellor Strategic Planning & Engagement, the Healthy Living Lab has carried out extensive, nation-wide research on this topic. The evidence presented to the inquiry was drawn from research undertaken into holiday clubs; the views of children, parents and holiday club staff illustrate that holiday clubs are recognised as a necessary resource to support families during the school holidays.
Professor Defeyter said: “Holiday hunger is a very real issue and it’s shocking that in this day and age some parents are struggling to feed their children. The holidays can be a stressful time for many parents, but holidays can be particularly so for families on low incomes, many of whom qualify for free school meals during term time. The additional cost of feeding a family of four during the holiday period is approximately £30-£40 per week. This additional cost has resulted in many low-income families adjusting their shopping habits; buying less expensive food that is often laden with salt, fat and sugar because it is perceived as being more filling and better value for money than healthier options.
“We are delighted to be asked to present oral and written evidence to the inquiry. Northumbria University is leading the way in the research into holiday hunger. There’s a clear link between food and academic attainment – particularly in areas of poverty and among primary-age children. Not only does holiday hunger affect children’s lives now but it may also have significant detrimental effects on their health and life chances in the future. There is a real need for accessible food and activity provision during the school holidays for children and young people in the UK. This is something that needs addressing as a matter of urgency.”
The evidence provided to the inquiry was included in the recent report, ‘Hungry Holidays’, published by the APPG on Hunger.