UNICEF has pledged to donate £700,000 to feed hungry children in the UK in what the UN agency calls a “domestic emergency.”
The money will go to thirty charities and community organisations to help feed children hit by the COVID-19 crisis.
The UN agency responsible for providing humanitarian and developmental aid to children worldwide has likened the effect of the coronavirus pandemic on youngsters to that of the Second World War.
While director of programmes at the United Nations charity organisation Anna Kettley said that “the coronavirus pandemic is the most urgent crisis affecting children since the Second World War,” she also said that “we know that before the pandemic 2.4 million children across the UK were already growing up in food insecure households.”
As with huge rises in food bank use; “newly hungry” families experiencing loss of income; and the need for restaurants across London to provide free school meals, the novel coronavirus pandemic has not caused a food insecurity crisis by itself. It has exacerbated already cavernous inequalities in U.K. society, with mutual aid groups, food bank charities, footballer Marcus Rashford, and now, UNICEF seeing interventions normalised by the decade of Lib Dem / Conservative, and then Conservative austerity policies that have meant they have to intervene at all. It did not have to be this way.
Throughout the last nine months, government interventions have been marked by hesitancy, u-turns, and logistical inadequacy. Free school meal vouchers didn’t apply to enough food shops; then they didn’t work at supermarket tills. Boris Johnson ignored Marcus Rashford’s appeal to extend free school meals over school holidays, until political and public pressure forced him to announce £406 million of funding. The government claimed the solution was Universal Credit; the largest food bank charity in the U.K., the Trussell Trust, links Universal Credit repayments to families going hungry.
Jacob Rees Mogg, a British politician serving as Leader of the House of Commons and Lord President of the Council has accused the UN agency of ‘playing politics’ with the offer of funding to help feed children in the UK for the first time in its history.
Since the first national lockdown in March, the number of families struggling to make ends meet and access food has grown, as the economy has suffered and vital jobs been lost.
In May, a YouGov poll commissioned by the charity Food Foundation found that 2.4 million children (17%) were living in food insecure households. And by October it said an extra 900,000 children had been registered for free school meals.