Food banks: 'Record levels of children have needed food support during the pandemic'

Last updated at 06:56
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Trussell Trust: 'Record numbers of children have needed food support during the pandemic'

There are more families relying on food support from charities than ever before.

The Trussell Trust - which runs food banks across the UK - said they have had to provide around 2,600 food parcels a day to children whose families are struggling to afford food during the coronavirus pandemic.

Food banks are a bit like supermarkets, but everything is free. They are for people who struggle to afford to buy enough food to eat.

The charity said that demand for food almost doubled compared to last year.

These figures could be much higher as they are just one charity helping with food parcels.

It come just days after the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, changed his mind on the decision to not provide food vouchers to children on free school meals during the holidays.

Newsround has been to meet three children who rely on the vouchers and support from charities.

Jayden's story
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Food poverty: Jayden's story

Jayden, 10, and his family have been supported with food from charities.

His family have been going to a place called the Youth Zone in Blackburn.

The Youth Zone - which is run by the national charity OnSide Youth Zones - is part of a big network of youth centres that support 8-19 year olds who need a bit of help.

They have helped 50,000 young people by providing them with food, educating them about jobs, and helping their wellbeing.

Jayden said that the charity made him feel "like someone cares".

He added: "Without their help, we have been in bits. My mum would have been crying and would have been really upset."

Paige's story
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Food poverty: Paige's story

Paige and her mum have sometimes struggled to afford food.

The 10-year-old said: "When I do go hungry, I kind of go a bit mad".

Just like Jayden, Paige has been reliant on the help of the Youth Zone in Blackburn.

Her family also received food parcels at the beginning of lockdown. She said "it's not right" that some children go hungry.

Paige remembers a time when she didn't eat a lot because she wanted there to be enough food for everyone.

Anna's story
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Food poverty: Anna's story

Anna said her life at home has been a bit difficult because her dad has a heart condition and her mum has struggles with mental health.

That means that for now, her parents are on benefits.

This means that they don't have jobs at the moment, and get financial support by the government.

It also means that 11-year-old Anna is given a free school meal at school.

Free school meals are given to children whose families need support.

More than 1.4 million children in the UK are given free school meals during term time.

Anna said the school voucher scheme is "really important" to her.

How many people are struggling?
food bank in action.

According to the Trussell Trust, between the 1 April and 30 September this year, food banks supplied more than 1.2 million emergency food parcels to people struggling to afford essentials.

That's the busiest ever half-year period for food banks, and more than 470,00 of those parcels went to children.

The Food Foundation charity said that 14% of adults living with children reported experiencing moderate or severe food insecurity in the last six months. Food insecurity means not having enough money to buy food, or worrying about where your next meal might come from.

The charity also said that 4% of adults living with children reported having gone for a whole day without eating.

And it's not just families on lower incomes who are relying on these kinds of services The Feeding Britain Network said they are seeing families from middle-income backgrounds too.

That's because more people have job insecurity because of the coronavirus pandemic, and less money to spend.

Where do families get help?
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What is a food bank and why do people use them?

Families can visit places called food banks if they don't have enough money to buy food.

A food bank provides people with everyday items like pasta, tinned food and cereals. They also give out other essential items like loo paper, soap and shampoo.

Most of these items are donated by members of the public.

Organisers will ask for the items they need to be donated - for example, they will say if a particular food bank is short on tinned food or shower gel.

Aaron Burns, who runs a food bank in Manchester, said his food bank has been "much busier" since the coronavirus pandemic.

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The chef who has delivered 7000 food parcels to families in need

When the UK government announced that they wouldn't be providing foods vouchers to children who get free school dinners during the October half term, footballer Marcus Rashford asked the public to help.

All over England, businesses and individuals offered their food services to people in need.

One of these people was a chef in Chester called Phil Jones.

Since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic lockdown in March, Phil has prepared over 7000 food parcels for people in need.

Why is food so important?
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Why are regular meals so important for children?

Lucy Jones is a dietician, and explained why food is so important for our bodies and our minds.

She said that food helps our minds to function - for example when you're five, half of your daily energy needs are taken up by your brain and that's because it requires so much energy to grow and develop.

Young people have really high energy needs, and that means regular meals are important in allowing us to meet the nutritional demands in our body.

Lots of studies have taken place and show that children who eat regular meals are much more likely to meet their nutrient needs compared to people who don't have regular meals.

For some children who come from families who don't have a lot of money, they might get their only hot meal from their school meal and that's why it's considered really important that there's an option to have hot meals at school.

What does the government say?
Boris Johnson.Reuters
Prime Minister Boris Johnson (pictured) has pledged £400 million to help families throughout the winter

The government has changed its mind several times about whether to provide free school meal vouchers to children in England during the holidays.

Last month, the government said it wouldn't give out food vouchers during the October half term holidays because it had already provided enough resources to local councils to help children in need.

Manchester United footballer Marcus Rashford campaigned against this decision and inspired thousands of businesses to help vulnerable families during the holiday.

On Saturday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson called Rashford personally to say that he would be pledging up to £400 million to support vulnerable families during the Christmas holidays and beyond.

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Rashford: "It's close to a perfect day"

He called Rashford to thank him for his hard work, and the footballer said the fact the government changed their mind meant it was "close to a perfect day" for him.

A government spokesperson told Newsround: "We are committed to making sure that the most vulnerable in our society are protected and we've put in place a strong package of support to ensure children and their families do not go hungry during this pandemic.

"Our additional £400 million of funding includes £170 million to help families stay warm and well-fed this winter, a further £16m to provide immediate support to frontline food aid charities and £220 million to the Holiday Activities and Food programme."

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