Help is at hand for High Peak families struggling with school holiday hunger

Empty cupboards this summer are a worry for parents up and down the High Peak, with more than 3,400 children classed as living in poverty. But help is on hand through the district's food banks and a county council programme. Inset: Paul Bohan from The Zink Project, formerly High Peak Foodbank.
Empty cupboards this summer are a worry for parents up and down the High Peak, with more than 3,400 children classed as living in poverty. But help is on hand through the district's food banks and a county council programme. Inset: Paul Bohan from The Zink Project, formerly High Peak Foodbank.

For some families the long summer holidays are a source of worry and concern as parents struggle to feed their children.

‘Holiday hunger’ normally impacts on families whose children would have received free school meals during term-time, and has been on the rise in the past few years.

In the first week of the holidays, The Zink Project, formerly High Peak Foodbank, received two referrals to provide food for needy families.

Paul Bohan, from the project, said: “Holidays become really expensive really quickly and for some parents, particularly those on benefits. It is a struggle.

“You have to find money to pay for meals and snacks you don’t normally need to budget for, and people are finding it difficult to bridge the gap and have no option but to turn to us.”

He said parents feel mounting pressures on them to do activities and keep the children entertained, which can add to their financial problems.

“There are those people who will be able to take time off and get paid for it, but there will be those who have to take time off and don’t get paid,” he explained.

“And even with cheap day trips such as playing in the park or having a picnic, the cost mounts up over time, and parents do find it harder to make ends meet over the summer holidays.”

Emergency food parcels are made up to help those in need. Paul said 50 per cent of their client base are single people, one quarter are couples and the last 25 per cent is made up of families, although he expects this figure to rise during the roll-out of Universal Credit from next month.

He said: “I think the fact that the minimum wage is going up is great, but it is going to be difficult to know what increase people on benefits will see. In an ideal world no-one should have to ask for help to be able to eat.”

When Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn visited the High Peak recently he highlighted the issue of holiday hunger.

He said: “Holiday hunger among children in this country is a serious issue because the free school meal system doesn’t extend to the holiday period and those families then have to find someone to help them out or access a food bank.”

However, a programme launched by Derbyshire County Council is helping tackle the problem.

Cabinet Member for Health and Communities, Coun Carol Hart, explained: “We know there are some children across Derbyshire who are at risk of missing meals during the school holidays which is why we developed the Derbyshire School Holiday Food Programme.

“The programme is led by our public health team who, along with other partners across Derbyshire including surplus food redistribution charity FareShare, work hard to support families who may need a bit of extra support during the long summer holidays while schools are closed.

“The loss of free school meals during the holidays costs a family £30 to £40 per week and last year FareShare supplied the equivalent food to provide nearly 12,000 meals through the our holiday food programme.

“FareShare delivers to 19 projects funded by the county council across Derbyshire during the school year and our public health staff work with 31 projects across the county in the areas where it’s needed most.

“The Derbyshire School Holiday Food Programme is an innovative project which delivers real benefits which is why I’m particularly pleased to hear it’s just been shortlisted for a national innovation award in the 2018 Foodservice ‘Cateys’ awards.”

Help is on hand from a wide range of sources for struggling families

Figures released by the End Child Poverty coalition show that 3,435 High Peak children are classed as living in poverty, after housing costs have been deducted from parents’ income.

However, despite this shocking data Paul Bohan said it is not just families who use the foodbank.

In recent weeks, he explained, the charity has provided assistance to people who have had to wait weeks for benefits applications to clear, or who have swapped a utilities provider and have been left short by additional payments.

In addition to the Zink Project, those in need can also turn to The Residents of Fairfield Association which offers a weekly food share scheme, and the Helping Hands food bank in New Mills.

Paul said: “There is also the Derbyshire Discretionary Fund for crisis loans which can provide people with short-term loans of up to £40 to pay for basic food and household needs, including energy bills, but not rent.
“There is always a way people in need can be helped so always come to us if you are struggling to make ends meet.”

A spokesperson for Derbyshire County Council added: “Gratitude goes out to every individual and organisation that is part of the Derbyshire School Holiday Food Programme and who have contributed towards its continued success.”

Useful Links

High Peak Foodbank

Helping Hands Foodbank

Feeding Derbyshire project