Published on 12 September 2022, by Gainsboroughlive | No comments yet |
Teachers have always gone above and beyond to support the children in their care and, with the cost of living crisis, schools are at the forefront of the UK’s slide into deepening poverty. Only one week back in classrooms after the summer break, hundreds of schools across the country are running food banks so children have enough to eat. Teachers are giving up personal time, food from their own cupboards, and money out of the school’s budget to feed the poorest families. As many as one in five UK schools reportedly set up food banks when they were forced to close during the pandemic, according to research from Kellogg’s. And demand hasn’t ceased. “Schools are on the frontline of the cost of living crisis,” said Dr Will Baker, a researcher at the University of Bristol. “The spread of school-based food banks reflects a growing level of poverty, destitution and food insecurity.” Diary of a food bank manager: ‘Now more regularly we hear about whole days without food’ ‘People will starve’: Food bank volunteers and guests fear ‘breaking point’ as the cost of living crisis spirals Free school meals: Everything you need to know Teachers told the Big Issue schools are acting as the country’s “fourth emergency service”, while experts have warned it reveals the “bleak reality” of poverty rates in the UK. Katie Barry, the headteacher at St George’s Primary School in Lincolnshire, said: “I lost that fight a long time ago. We just embrace it now. I can’t separate the social side from teaching and learning. Children will never be able to concentrate if they’re hungry, or if they’re cold, or if their toes are sticking out the bottoms of their trainers.” The latest figures show that nearly 10 million people are living in food insecurity across the UK, including 2.6 million children. A further 1.3 million people face poverty this winter, according to forecasts from the Legatum Institute. Barry and other staff set up a “food stall” to help families at the beginning of the pandemic. St George’s has one of the highest deprivation rates in the country, with around 75 to 80 per cent of its children eligible for the government’s pupil premium funding for children from disadvantaged backgrounds. Barry chooses not to use the words “food bank”, explaining: “I’ve always thought that label was a barrier. For a huge amount of families who come, it probably hasn’t even dawned on them that they’re using a food bank. They just think the school puts on a food stall every fortnight.” Every Friday, a transit van containing 1000kg of food parcels and toiletries arrives at the school gates. On the first week back after the school holidays, all the food was gone in 45 minutes. Barry fears that demand will soar amid the cost of living crisis, and they won’t be able to support the families who need their help. The school was running the food bank every other week, but they have had to increase it to weekly because demand is so great. “The trouble is, it costs us,” Barry said. The charity FareShare supplies the school with food packages, at a cost of £320 a time. When St George’s started the food stall at the beginning of the pandemic, they ran it every week. Now, they can only hold it every fortnight. FareShare takes good-to-eat, surplus food from across the food industry, and delivers it to a network of charities. They currently supply around 674 schools and 274 after-school clubs with meals. Between April and August this year, FareShare supplied 910 tonnes of food to schools across the country. The school gets charitable grants to cut the costs and Barry is insistent she won’t use the school budget for it. “But even having it every fortnight, it all adds up,” she said, before making the decision to run the food bank every week. “If we went back to doing it weekly, it’s doubling that cost and it also takes staff time. It would be taking that time away from teaching and learning.” It’s not just families who are struggling – teachers are also facing their own struggles in the cost of living crisis. Barry said she had staff who had to switch off their heating in February this year because they couldn’t afford it. Baker, of the University of Bristol, is conducting extensive research into the rise of food banks in schools amid the cost of living crisis. Although it’s difficult to estimate exact numbers, he believes hundreds of schools across the country are running “some kind of food bank or pantry”. “Schools will continue to play a central role in supporting families over what will be a very difficult winter,” he said. “But it’s deeply concerning to think that charitable food giving, and food banks, are becoming an increasingly common and normal part of what schools do.” Read more about St George’s School food stall.

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