When money is tight eight-year-old Emma’s parents are forced to send their daughter to school, tummy rumbling, without any breakfast. In the evening, she fills up on plain pasta or reduced microwave meals – cheap food her parents can afford.
Emma says she often feels too tired to concentrate on her schoolwork.
The situation Emma lives with is the devastating reality faced by the 500,000 children across the UK who go to school hungry each day.
Eight million people in Britain – the world’s sixth largest economy – are living in food poverty, according to the United Nations (UN). And an estimated 870,000 children in England may be going to bed hungry each night because their parents are unable to provide the meals they need.
But not eating isn’t the only problem – access to nourishing and nutrient-filled food is simply out of reach for thousands of families living on the breadline, with far-reaching consequences for too many of Britain’s children.
Dr George Grimble, a medical scientist at University College London, said the situation was “disastrous” for developing children, resulting in malnourishment, obesity and squandered potential.
“When people are in poverty they are forced to buy the cheapest foods – filling but nutrient-lacking food,” Dr Grimble told The Independent. “Food poverty in the community overlays to a large extent on disease malnutrition.”
More than 60 per cent of paediatricians believe food insecurity contributed to the ill health among children they treat, according to a 2017 survey by the Royal College of Paediatricians and Child Health.
The harrowing hunger stats sit juxtaposed with the fact 100 million tons of food is wasted each year across the EU.
More than 400 million meals’ worth of edible food was sent to landfill in 2016 which could have been redistributed to feed hungry people across Britain, according to the Government’s waste advisory body, Wrap.
Which is why for this year’s Christmas campaign The Independent is partnering with The Felix Project to tackle the scourge of food poverty unnecessarily blighting the futures of too many of Britain’s schoolchildren.
‘One third of food grown globally is never eaten’
By Carina Millstone, executive director of Feedback, an environmental organisation that campaigns to end food waste
While many families struggle to put food on the table, supermarkets, food manufacturers and households across the country waste a massive 10 million tons of food each year – much of it still perfectly edible.
Supermarkets have started to rise to the challenge. Tesco, for example, committed last year to redistribute 100 per cent of its surplus food to charity.
But they must also carefully examine how displays of seemingly endless abundance, enticing “special offers” and “family” packaging sizes may be pushing their customers to buy more than they really need.
For every five bags of groceries we take home, mostly from supermarkets, one will be wasted – costing the average family with children in the capital £700 a year, a price many Londoners can ill afford.
And it’s not just our wallets that hurt when we throw away food, it’s also our planet.
One third of food grown globally is never eaten – representing a waste of land, water and resources of staggering proportions.
Food waste then is as much an environmental tragedy as it is a social outrage – but, on the plus side, we can all take action to fight it.
The charity has been working since 2016 to redistribute surplus in-date produce, collected from more than 90 food retailers, to 100 frontline charities which need it most.
This year, The Felix Project expects to distribute one million meals.
Now, it will be channelling all funds raised by The Independent’s appeal to provide fresh and nutritious food for hungry children to access at primary schools.
Hilary Croft, CEO of The Felix Project, said: “We wanted to have a more direct impact on children as we know of the consequences of children going hungry.
“They lose an hour of learning time a day, they can’t concentrate, it’s just huge lost potential.”
Every £1 donated will ensure a primary school child and their family has the food needed for a nutritious meal. £500 will enable a new school to be recruited to the programme.
Here are the ways you can donate to our Christmas appeal:
Call – 08000 639281 (freephone)
Text – FELIX £5 TO 70700
Click – independent.co.uk/helpahungrychild
Post – Freepost HELP A HUNGRY CHILD
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