Tens of thousands of UK children have been pushed into food insecurity since the onset of Covid-19 six months ago, according to analysis from Marcus Rashford’s child food poverty task force.
Food Standards Agency data, analysed by task force member the Food Foundation, reveals 14% of UK families with children have experienced food insecurity since April – which equates to four million adults and 2.3m children.
This is an increase on pre-Covid levels – where 11.5% of families were reported to be food insecure.
The figures come as the Manchester United star’s task force – consisting of charities, experts and supermarket brands – urges the government to boost funding for three key measures put forward by the National Food Strategy.
The first is to expand free school meals to every child from a household on social security payments, such as Universal Credit, to reach an additional 1.5 million children aged seven to 16.
The second is to expand holiday food and activities to support all children on free school meals to reach an additional 1.1 million children.
And the third is to increase the value of the Healthy Start vouchers from £3.10 to £4.25 per week and expand it to all those on Universal Credit or equivalent, reaching an additional 290,000 children under the age of four and pregnant women.
“The situation for families and their children is precarious,” said Anna Taylor, executive director of the Food Foundation.
“It’s vital that the economic measures which have been put in place to protect struggling families are maintained and increased further in the Autumn budget given the economic scenario we are facing.
“Too many families are missing out with devastating, life-long impacts on our children.
“Our data shows that government action really matters and has a direct impact on people’s lives and the future health and wellbeing of our children.”
Around 10% of parents and guardians – affecting an estimated 1.9 million children – reported that food insecurity had impacted their children in the last six months. About 6% were forced to rely on only a few kinds of low-cost food, while 5% had to provide unbalanced meals. One percent had to resort to smaller portions and 2% had to skip meals entirely.
Meanwhile, 4% of adults living with children had gone for a whole day without eating in the last 6 months.
The Food Foundation’s Covid-19 tracker shows that, despite people returning to work and children to school, food insecurity remains extremely high for families.
“I encourage everyone to stop and listen. The time for action is now.” said Rashford.
“2.3 million children have been living in food insecure households over the last six months. The task force stands together to offer these vulnerable children the platform they need to have their voices heard.”