Anna Davis

Food For London Now: Expert warns 500,000 children to face hunger this Christmas unless action is taken to tackle food poverty

By Anna Davis

Half a million children in London will go hungry in the run-up to Christmas if nothing is done to help them, a child poverty expert warned today.

Andrew Read, head of education at London South Bank University, warned that the number of children living in food poverty will rise by 100,000 as a result of the pandemic unless urgent action is taken.

Already, 400,000 children go hungry in the capital, according to a survey of Londoners published by the Greater London Authority. Mr Read said this “huge figure” will increase to 500,000 because the pandemic is adding “layers of insecurity” onto families.

The rise in hungry children could have a catastrophic impact on education in London, with academic improvements set back by a generation as children struggle to learn without having had enough food, he said. It comes after more than three million people reported going hungry during the first lockdown.

The number of adults who are food insecure in Britain is estimated to have quadrupled due to the pandemic, according to a report by the Food Foundation and King’s College London.

During the first lockdown, 16.2 percent of adults said they experienced food insecurity. In normal times, 3.8 percent of adults in Britain are believed to experience it.

Mr Read said: “This is really a tragedy. We know that 400,000 children are hungry in London. We know that Covid is having an impact on this, and we are aware that if action is not taken, that number is going to go up to half a million children.

“The issue is massive. We know that food insecurity and hunger has an impact on children’s academic progress, and unless something is done about this now, this is going to set back pupils’ progress for potentially a generation.”

Mr. Read praised the Evening Standard’s Food For London Now campaign, adding: “It is really important that there is action to address issues around food poverty and food insecurity in households. Food poverty has a long-term impact on young people.

“A healthy diet doesn’t only mean children will do better at school but children who are not well fed are more likely to develop mental health problems and stress, and as they get older they are more likely to suffer from diseases such as cancer, heart disease, diabetes and obesity.”

Let’s Feed London Now

This November and December, together with our sister title The Independent, we will be delivering food directly to 1,000 Londoners a day through our partner With Compassion. Please donate here to help ensure no Londoner goes hungry this Christmas

London schools have improved dramatically in the past decade, and children from poorer backgrounds do better here than anywhere else in the country. But Mr. Read warned these advances could be put at risk if children are being left hungry.

Research shows that when pupils are not hungry, levels of pupil concentration in class, readiness to learn, and behavior improves

Mr. Read said that when children are hungry it is harder for them to concentrate and they are tired, which affects their ability to reach their potential.

“That is what’s really sad,” he added.

He warned that as Christmas approaches, the stress that families are under will increase.

Anna Davis Education Editor and Deputy Campaigns Editor at the Evening Standard. She covers everything from nursery to school, university, and beyond.

200730 ES Hamborough Felix MW 0112

Hamborough Primary School headteacher Louise Singleton handing out food given by the Felix Project to pupils and their families earlier this year

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