Call for MPs to tackle ‘Holiday Hunger’

22nd March 2017

A group of over 30 organisations, including national charities, businesses and academics, are calling on the UK administrations to commit to eliminating ‘Holiday Hunger’, where children from poorer families struggle to eat a nutritious diet during school holidays.

The letter sent to the relevant Secretaries of State and Cabinet Secretaries congratulates the Welsh Government on their support and urges them to maintain and build on this commitment. We are calling on the other UK administrations to commit to playing their part in eliminating the social injustice of ‘Holiday Hunger’ for all children in the UK. We are therefore calling on the UK administrations to:

  • Sign up publicly to the shared ambition to eliminate ‘Holiday Hunger’ in a decade
  • Initiate ring-fenced funding for holiday provision with an associated UK research programme that will inform long-term policy
  • Support sharing of good practice and evaluation to underpin sustainable approaches

The full text of the letter, with signatures, is here.

Kath Dalmeny, Chief Executive at Sustain, the alliance for better food and farming said:

“A wide-ranging group of organisations and individuals including charities, businesses, academics and funders, are increasingly concerned about the number of children struggling to eat enough or going hungry during the school holidays. Throughout these periods, parents have the challenges of managing increased childcare demands, heavier domestic bills and the cost of providing extra meals. Children living in these circumstances often experience multiple difficulties including hunger, poor-quality food, social isolation, learning loss and family tension. The impact of this can mean children return to school having fallen behind and in a poorer physical state than when they left school and the end of the previous term. We need a combination of action from national and local government alongside non-statutory partners to rebuild and enhance the safety net for families in poverty.”

Matthew Patten, Chief Executive at the Mayor’s Fund for London, a social mobility charity, said:

“We see what happens at the front-line when people go hungry. Here in our capital city, the greatest in the world, research suggests that 500,000 children struggle for food during the school holidays. This is unacceptable.

We played an important role in securing statutory funding for school food and now we’ve turned our attention to the holidays. That’s why we launched ‘Kitchen Social’, a new campaign to bring together politicians, the food industry, foundations and communities to end holiday hunger. Over the next three years Kitchen Social will identify and support 330 community organisations across London to provide good things to eat and do during the school holidays. Additional benefits include learning about healthy eating, new skills, social inclusion and the development of staff, volunteers and local capacity. We will share and develop the Kitchen Social model with the rest of the country as part of a broader initiative to end holiday hunger.

We recognise that Kitchen Social is only part of the solution. Holiday hunger is a huge challenge that can only be overcome if we work and campaign together which is why we stand strongly behind this call to action and feel that all UK parliaments should follow the example set by Wales and set aside funding to address the issue of holiday hunger and food insecurity.”


  1. In January 2017, the Welsh Government announced a year of (2017/18) funding of £500k for ‘Lunch and Fun’ clubs in areas of need in school summer holidays. This follows the success of ‘Food and Fun Wales’ – an award winning school holiday enrichment programme.
  2. The situation or families struggling during the school holidays is set out in a number of reports, for example: An evaluation of Holiday Kitchen 2014: Learning, food and play for families who need it most in the West Midlands.
  3. The All Party Parliamentary Group on Hunger has stated that ‘a national programme backed by £200 million could all but eliminate child hunger during the school holidays’ in England. APPG on Hunger (December 2015) A route map to ending hunger as we know it in the United Kingdom: Feeding Britain in 2015-16, p. 20
  4. Evaluations to date have identified a number of positive impacts of holiday food provision including: children being food secure during the holidays and can be better placed to achieve when school returns; children try new and nutritious foods which could have a positive influence on children’s dietary habits at home; alleviating financial constraint on parents and providing parents with peace of mind;  and the breakdown of perceived barriers to parents engaging with school and community interventions. See P.L. Graham et al (August 2016) School Holiday Food Provision in the UK: A Qualitative Investigation into Needs, benefits and Potential for Development, Frontiers in Public Health.
  5. The letter is coordinated by Sustain: the alliance for better food and farming. Sustain advocates food and agriculture policies and practices that enhance the health and welfare of people and animals, improve the working and living environment, enrich society and culture and promote equity. It represents around 100 national public interest organisations working at international, national, regional and local level.