New report warns of acute holiday hunger among poorer children
Scottish Labour has called for immediate action from the Scottish Government after a Glasgow University report laid out a bleak picture of hunger during the school holidays.
The researchers Hilary Stewart, Nick Watson and Mhairi Campbell, have identified the long periods over the summer holidays when poorer children are undernourished as a potential cause of the pronounced attainment gap between poorer children and their richer peers.
One of the authors, Prof. Nicolas Watson said:
"The long summer holidays can offer children the chance to have new experiences, opportunities to play, relax, create memories and develop essential social skills.
"While this is true for many children, for some the school holidays are a stressful and impoverished period of isolation, boredom and inactivity."
"For low income families, summer holidays often entail increased financial pressures, food insecurity, poor health and exclusion from culturally enriching and healthful activities."
Scottish Labour has demanded that the Scottish government provide sufficient funding for local councils to provide adequate food during the holidays. Local Authorities like North Lanarkshire have championed the Food365 scheme, which provides hot meals to children entitled to free school meals every day of the year. A similar scheme was also rolled out in North Ayshire.
Experts have pointed to the pronounced rise in food bank usage following the rollout of Universal Credit in areas across Scotland as evidence that the problem is set to become even more severe in the years ahead.
Responding to the report, Scottish Labour's shadow cabinet secretary for the eradication of poverty and inequality, Elaine Smith MSP, said:
“The findings of this report are deeply troubling.
“School holidays should create some of the happiest memories our children have, but this report shows that for thousands of kids it is period filled with hunger and pain.
“In local government Labour is looking at radical and ambitious policies to tackle child poverty like the Food365 program in North Lanarkshire which will provide free school meals every day of the week including public holidays and weekends.
“The SNP government must do more to tackle holiday hunger or their vow to close the attainment gap will be another promise they have broken to the people of Scotland.
Only Scottish Labour will poverty proof policies to deliver a society that works for the many not the few.”
You can read the full report here.