'Holiday hunger' fears of food bank charity in Wales

By Colette Hume
BBC Wales News

image captionCharities are appealing for food donations during the summer holidays

While children count the days to the school summer holidays, many parents in Wales are counting how they will pay the increased food bills.

Food banks in Wales have reported a 14% increase in the number of parcels handed out last summer.

They are braced for a further rise in demand for emergency help during this year's school summer break.

The Department for Work and Pensions says it is helping low income families with the cost of living.

But for some parents, food banks are the difference between being able to feed her children or going hungry.

Gemma, from Cardiff, is living on benefits but the loss of the school breakfast club and free dinners during the six-week holiday means it is hard to make ends meet.

That is why food projects such as Chomp, run by Albany Road Baptist Church in Cardiff, are so important, she says.

"That's two days a week when I don't have to worry about providing a hot meal for my children. It's a massive help," she said.

"At the end of some months, I have just £2 left in my account, things can get really tight. It's scary.

"Children want to eat, to go out and enjoy their summer and you've got to provide that for them. That's why Chomp is so special, they're there every single holiday, it's a safe space and for me, that's such a weight lifted."

However Gemma is far from alone.

image captionHelen Bull from the Cardiff food banks said she was concerned for families over the holidays

The project, funded by donations and charity grants, was created after nearby schools asked for help to make sure pupils didn't go without over the summer.

Last year they fed on average 55 people per session.

The Trussell Trust, a charity that runs the majority of food banks in Wales, has said 4,137 emergency food parcels were given to Welsh children last summer - a 14% increase.

"We are really concerned. There are so many families who simply struggle to provide food for their families over the summer holidays," said Helen Bull, development manager at the Cardiff food bank.

"They're having to provide more food for meals which they wouldn't have to provide in term time."

The trust says delays and gaps in benefits such as universal credit are "a key driver of need at food banks in the charity's network."

The Department for Work and Pensions said employment and wage figures were higher than inflation.

image captionJane Jenkins' school expects to distribute 50 bags of food to families

In a statement it added: "Our priority is to support people to improve their lives through work while helping low income families with the cost of living.

"That's why we have raised the personal allowance to take 1.74 million of the lowest paid out of income tax altogether, frozen fuel duty for the ninth consecutive year, increased the national living wage and confirmed that the benefit freeze will end next year."

However schools in some of the most deprived parts of Wales are also trying to help families during the holiday.

Moorland Primary School in Splott, Cardiff, expects to distribute 50 bags of food before the end of term.

Head teacher Jane Jenkins said without such help, some families would go hungry.

"We've seen a massive increase in the past four or five years with changes to benefits and entitlements. People can literally not feed their families from one week to the next," she said.

This summer 80 schemes under the School Holiday Enrichment Programme (SHEP), funded by the Welsh Government and local authorities, will also provide free meals, education and physical activities for 4,000 children across Wales.

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