Do children across Northern Ireland have enough to eat during the summer?

    Candy400b.jpgThe Society of St Vincent de Paul in Northern Ireland (SVP) is asking if the most vulnerable in society, which includes the 102,000 children on free school meals, will have enough to eat during school holidays.
     
    Pauline Brown, Regional Manager for SVP, explains:  “With so many young people guaranteed a balanced, healthy meal at lunchtime each day through free school meals during term time, it can often be the case that during school holidays, these children’s families just don’t have enough resources to feed the entire family."
     
    For children of families who are already struggling to make ends meet, the summer break is not a long, relaxing stretch of weeks to fill doing what they wish; in fact, it can be just the opposite. Some children do not know where their next meal is coming from, which can be an extremely unsettling time. This can also be a stressful burden on parents, who continually have to say no to hungry children who are asking for something to eat as they may only have enough food to make one meal per day.

    As families need to balance budgets for food, fuel, activity and childcare, the loss of free school meals can add a substantial, unmanageable amount to already stretched households. Children in families dealing with a lack of food over the summer break cannot possibly come back to school refreshed and ready to learn in September.
     
    In an effort to make children and young people more aware of what they are eating, Children in Northern Ireland (CiNI), which is an umbrella organisation of members working to establish a better future for children locally, is piloting a number of initiatives with a range of voluntary and statutory bodies to promote a hunger holiday campaign.
     
    SVP, a key member of CiNI, believes that more can be done by government. Pauline adds: “While non-government bodies, such as CiNI, are attempting to address this issue, we are appealing to elected representatives to help to make a difference for children and families in this potentially detrimental situation. There are so many people within our communities living in poverty every day that as well as a break from school; their children may also suffer due to a break from hot, nourishing meals."
     
    At Christmas, more than 20,000 families approached SVP for much-needed support to manage the ever-mounting costs of the festivities. SVPNI recognise that these families will also need assistance over the summer and we have various supports available, such as help with summer schemes and fuel payments. ‘Vincent’s’ charity shops across Northern Ireland often have stock of local pre-loved school uniforms, helping families to manage the challenge of purchasing uniforms for growing children. SVP also has a facility available, Clare Lodge in Newcastle, where families can access low-cost breaks.

    SVPNI welcome any family looking for support over the summer to get in touch with one of our local conferences or our regional office. Call SVP’s regional office on 028 9035 1561 or email info@svpni.co.uk.

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