27 October 2021
The Food Foundation's response to Spending Review announcement
Today’s announcement that the Holiday Activities and Food Programme will continue to be funded shows that the Government recognise the importance of providing vulnerable children with nutritious food during the school holidays. Provision of holiday clubs through the programme has provided a vital lifeline during the financially challenging school holiday periods for many families this year, supporting children’s learning and development and preventing them from falling behind their peers.
However, this alone will not be enough to prevent child food insecurity. It is worrying that the Government has not chosen to extend eligibility for the scheme, or to expand the number of children that are eligible for Free School Meals and Healthy Start vouchers. There are still far too many children not benefitting from the safety net that these targeted schemes should be providing. Nearly 50% of children experiencing food insecurity in England are still not eligible for Free School Meals or holiday clubs. A basic level of adequate, nutritious food for the most at-risk children is not a big ask, and would help ensure that spending on education goes further by helping disadvantaged children learn better and protecting their long-term health.
Families are facing a difficult winter with the £20 cut to Universal Credit, growing food and fuel prices and the forthcoming rise in National Insurance. The wider measures announced today – increasing minimum wage levels from April 2022 and removing the freeze on public sector pay – are very welcome, but will not go far enough, and do little to help those on Universal Credit or to provide essential support for families this winter.