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Holiday hunger is a human rights issue— Scotland’s children have the right to food

Categories: Articles:Social Justice | Published: 20/07/2017 | Views: 886

Máire McCormack part of the commission for Children and Young People Scotland writes about children from low-income families going hungry during the school holidays.

In just a few weeks’ time, children will be returning from their summer holidays. Many will have had a fun time— days out with their families, the chance to play with friends and take part in a variety of summer activities. They will be arriving back to school energised, eager to learn and looking forward to picking up their school work.

For other families on low incomes, it is a different story: the holidays represent a difficult time. We have heard that some children in receipt of free school meals during term time have arrived back to school in a worse physical and mental condition than when they left, with some of them not having had a decent meal during all that time. Other than the costs of finding meals that would otherwise be provided in schools, there are additional costs, due to an increase in childcare for working parents or costs related to heating and cooking. Some families may have to reduce their working hours – for work that may already be insecure – resulting in a loss of income and less money to spend— not only on essentials, but also on the hidden costs of activities such as treats and travel which are the norm for other families.

Reductions in household income as a result of tax, low wages, insecure work and social security benefit changes have led to both food and fuel poverty, poverty and the rise in food bank use. Holidays tend to exacerbate this.

Many children’s organisations in Scotland have highlighted the detrimental effect that holidays can have on children’s mental and physical wellbeing and how this in turn impacts on their ability to learn— and ultimately their educational attainment. The Trussell Trust also notes that a third of people depending on food banks are children, and observes that diet related health inequalities can have a major impact on their educational attainment, emotional wellbeing and long-term quality of life. They note peaks in food bank use during the holiday periods.  Read the full report here.


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