A report by the Food Foundation reveals that one in four households in the UK with children experienced food insecurity this September.
Put simply, this means children went hungry.
The charity, Chefs in Schools, reports schoolchildren pretending to eat out of empty lunchboxes. Craig Johnson, founder of Launch Foods, a Glasgow Charity providing free lunches for 300 schoolchildren a day, says: “People are talking about an approaching crisis. There is already a crisis”.
Purbeck is a beautiful part of Dorset, and Swanage a seaside town loved by so many visitors. But there are families here who struggle to make ends meet – and for those families, just getting by is more and more difficult. Even with the energy price cap, hard pressed households in Swanage face an 80 per cent rise in energy bills.
We all know, too, that things may get worse before they get better, with food inflation a particular worry for many families. The cost of food in the UK increased by 14.6 per cent in the 12 months to September 2022, up from 13.1 per cent in August. This is the highest rate of increase since at least 1981, with prices of eggs, milk and cheese being among the biggest upward contributors to this.
There have been some great initiatives in Swanage – cookery clubs, school breakfast clubs, a community pantry addressing food waste, and a hard-working food meeting the needs of people deemed ‘extremely food insecure’.
But it can be a struggle for the food bank to keep up with demand, and research shows that there are likely to be four times as many people here who are ‘food insecure’, on top of those who access the food bank.
Office of National Statistic figures state that there were 501 Swanage households in receipt of the Universal Credit in February 2022, and 45 per cent of people receiving universal credit here were in work.
This indicates a likelihood of at least 1,000 people in Swanage – given a national average of 2.4 people per UK household in 2020 – at risk of being hungry in the months ahead.
Dorset Council’s own analysis confirms there are many households in Swanage living from day to day, hard pressed and struggling to pay for food and heating.
Parliamentary statistics in the House of Commons library paint the same picture. According to the Constituency Dashboard, there are significant pockets of child poverty in Swanage.
It is heartening, therefore, to see cross-community, cross-party work taking place on the ground to support food insecure families and individuals in Swanage.
A meeting took place recently on Zoom which was attended by Swanage Town councillors, representatives of local community organisations, churches and schools to consider what might be done.
Contact has been made with FareShare, a national network aimed at relieving food poverty and food waste in the UK.
Further meetings are planned. I am sure all of us will wish this work well, and share its aim that no child in Swanage should go to school hungry.
Chairman, Swanage and