Food banks in South Tyneside brace for surge in demand over half term after free school meals hopes dashed

Food banks in South Tyneside are braced for a surge in demand over next week’s half term break.

Paul Oliver has warned food banks face a surge in demand over half term after the Government ruled out providing free school meals during the holidays.
Paul Oliver has warned food banks face a surge in demand over half term after the Government ruled out providing free school meals during the holidays.

The end of lessons will mean an anxious week for many families in the borough struggling to make ends meet.

Holiday hunger is an issue for many youngsters in normal years as they miss out on regular school meals, but the impact of the coronavirus pandemic has seen more feeling the strain this time around.

“We saw quite a big rise in demand when the schools went back in September and we’re expecting a rise over half term,” said Paul Oliver, chief executive at Hospitality & Hope food bank, in Hampden Street, South Shields.

“Since restrictions came in, in March, we’ve seen a marked increase in people accessing the service – in September we did double the amount of referrals compared to September 2019.

“We’re expecting that to continue.”

The issue of families going hungry over school breaks has been highlighted in recent weeks by Manchester United and England football star Marcus Rashford, who called on the Government to step in with extra support.

Ministers’ refusal, however, has prompted several English local authorities to step in to offer their own holiday meal provision next week.

South Tyneside Council has not opted to join the initiative, but town hall chiefs have still received praise for the support they already give to Hospitality & Hope, as well as Hebburn Helps and the Key Project.

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Mr Oliver added this extra cash had helped the food bank up its service to five days a week.

Cllr Ed Malcolm, cabinet member for resources and innovation at the borough council, said: “Since May we have provided £15,000 a month to these food banks as we recognise that they are best placed to continue providing a vital lifeline for struggling families.

“This funding is ongoing – we know that our food banks are needed more than ever as families have been pushed even further into crisis during these extremely difficult and challenging times.

“We’re committed to working with our schools and partner organisations, particularly our fantastic food banks, to ensure that no one in our Borough slips through the net.”

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