Vulnerable Groups

Who is at risk and how are they being helped?

The government has identified 1.5 million people in the UK who are at very high medical risk of the virus, but millions more will require support: the pandemic is taking hold in a Britain where too many people already struggle to afford enough nutritious food and this is being compounded by difficulties in getting to shops or getting food deliveries. Without the right help to deal with the conditions created by COVID-19, citizens who are economically vulnerable and food insecure may find themselves battling illness, hunger and debt. As a vulnerable group already at greater risk of food insecurity, children and young people could face further barriers to accessing affordable, nutritious food as a result of COVID-19.

We’ll be identifying the vulnerable groups, investigating how their needs are being addressed and finding opportunities to improve the response. In order to understand how COVID-19 is affecting children in the UK, we’ll be following developments in policy designed to protect them, and will create platforms from which young people can tell us about their experience of lockdown, and what they’re eating in quarantine.

Take a look at our breakdown of vulnerable groups during the COVID-19 crisis here, and find out more about the Food Foundation’s work on the Children’s #Right2Food Campaign.

Return to our homepage to view the COVID-19 Tracker in full.

Response to government free school meal plans: the Food Foundation joins others in writing to the Department for Education again to call for clarity around voucher scheme and holiday food insecurity provisions ahead of Easter

The Food Foundation and children’s food experts sign a letter to Secretary of State for Education Gavin Williamson CBE MP, requesting that the government extend term-time provision for children eligible for free school meals into the upcoming Easter holidays to ensure young people have access to enough nutritious food during the break.

The letter also asks for clarity around the use of vouchers for free school meals. The approach was recommended to schools the previous week, but many remain unclear on what the guidance means in practical terms. There are concerns that the current free school meal allowance of £2.30 a meal will not cover food costs per child when it is transferred to vouchers, because families cannot benefit from economies of scale.

The letter also raises questions about how families issued with vouchers will be supported to choose the ingredients for, prepare and cook nutritious meals for their children.

Anna Taylor, Executive Director of the Food Foundation, said: “1.3 million children depend on school meals for nourishment. These children are from the poorest homes in the country. Parents and children alike tell us how much they rely on these meals for vital sustenance. Families will face loss of income and illness over the coming months, and holiday provision clubs will be limited by logistical challenges, so it’s crucial that schools have the funding and support they need to feed vulnerable young people in their communities. This includes children with No Recourse to Public Funds, and those who are living in poverty but are still not eligible for Free School Meals.”

Read the letter here.

Approximately one million undocumented migrants in the UK could be at risk of food insecurity

The Guardian runs an article about concerns that “approximately a million undocumented migrants living under the radar in the UK could be at risk not only of contracting Covid-19 but also of starvation because of the crisis created by the pandemic.”

Read the full piece here.

The Children’s Future Food Inquiry final report profiles the challenges migrant children with No Recourse to Public Funds encounter in accessing adequate sustenance. Children with precarious immigration status are already more likely to be facing destitution, and will be unable to take up the kind of statutory support that some families living in poverty will receive during the COVID-19 crisis.

Campaigners encourage government to invest in school caterers to provide substitute meals rather than vouchers

School Food Matters and other children’s food charities write to Secretary of State for Education Gavin Williamson CBE MP, highlighting that school caterers are best placed to feed children well during these difficult times, and that school staff will be able to keep in touch with vulnerable children who may have multiple needs. The letter encourages the government to use free school meal funding to invest in catering services where possible, rather than turning to supermarket vouchers first.

Read the letter here.

Schools close: government publishes plans for supporting children eligible for free school meals

Following the announcement on March 18th that schools would be closed from the end of that week, the government publishes its plans to support pupils eligible for free school meals, announcing that students will be offered meals or vouchers as an alternative if they can no longer attend school due to coronavirus measures.

Campaigners call on government to help feed children living in poverty during school closures

In response to the possibility of school closures, The Daily Mirror covered a letter signed by the Food Foundation which calls on the government to ensure provisions are made for children who are reliant on free school meals, as well as for those who are living in poverty but are not eligible for the entitlement.

Anna Taylor, Executive Director of the Food Foundation, said: “1.5 million children depend on school meals for nourishment. These children are from the poorest homes in the country. Parents and children alike tell us how much they rely on this meal for vital sustenance. Special measures must be put in place to support these children and their families in the event of school closures.”