Vulnerable Groups

Food Insecurity: Who is at risk and what are the solutions?

In 2020, headlines on foodbank Britain and children missing meals propelled food insecurity into the spotlight. But the issue is nothing new – it was highly prevalent before Covid-19 and will continue beyond it.

How does food insecurity happen and what can be done to prevent it? Our tracker will try and find answers to these important questions. We’ll identify barriers to accessing an affordable, nutritious meal and follow the latest developments in the policies designed to help groups most at risk: those on low incomes, the unemployed, people with disabilities, BAME communities and children and families.

We’ll collate the latest evidence and lived experiences to better understand the impact of diet inequalities on people’s lives and find opportunities for better responses and lasting solutions.

View our UK Food Tracker in full

Department for Education confirms continued support for the National School Breakfast Programme

The Department for Education has updated its COVID-19 free school meals guidance to confirm that the National School Breakfast Programme, which was as yet unaddressed, will continue to receive funding:

“Alongside our national approach to supporting free school meal pupils, we are committed to supporting schools and their pupils who would usually benefit from the DfE breakfast club programme. The with the schools on the programme, and are working closely with them to reach children who would normally receive a healthy breakfast at school.

“Schools on the programme can choose to support eligible children in the way which works best for them, this may include parents collecting food parcels or breakfast food ‘drop offs’. This should be arranged alongside the schools’ wider support for children on free school meals. Schools must follow Public Health England’s advice on social distancing at all times.”

The full guidance is available here.

Government announces free school meal vouchers WILL now be available over Easter

Following criticism of its confirmation that the free school meal replacement vouchers would only be available during term time, Michael Gove MP said at today’s briefing: “Parents have kept their children at home wherever possible, so we head into the Easter holiday weeks with school attendance having been around 2 per cent, ensuring the most vulnerable can be cared for.

“For children eligible for free school meals, vouchers will be available through the holidays to support household income.” So far this support falls short of the summer holidays.

Schools Week writes about it in more detail.

The Guardian reports that 950,000 have applied for Universal Credit in two weeks of UK lockdown

“Nearly a million people have successfully applied for Universal Credit in the last fortnight, in a rush to welfare support that reveals the depth of the jobs crisis caused by the UK’s lockdown.

“Despite the government’s job support schemes offering 80% of earnings to employees and the self-employed who cannot work, 950,000 people applied for the main income support benefit between 16 and 31 March. There are normally about 100,000 applicants for the benefit in any given two-week period.” Before the crisis 2.8 million were registered for Universal Credit.

Read the full piece here.

Food Foundation joins others in writing to the Department for Education again about holiday food insecurity

In a letter to Gavin Williamson CBE MP coordinated by School Food Matters we draw attention to the fact that, come the Easter holidays, millions of children could need statutory help in order to access enough food:

“The loss of free school meals during school holidays typically adds £30-40 per week to household food spending. With even more families affected through loss of income and illness, the need to maintain support to feed children during the holidays has become imperative.”

Read the letter in full here.

Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Children and Families responds to letters from food charities about free school meal provision

School Food Matters receives a response to the letters, signed by the Food Foundation, that have been sent to the Department for Education. Vicky Ford MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Children and Families, wrote a letter acknowledging our concerns and highlighting guidance for the public food sector industry about the consequences of voucher distribution where school caterers could be used instead, and resulting in demand for school meals falling.


The Minister also addressed questions about the value of the vouchers that would be available, but confirmed that they are only for term time, which will mean many children could face food insecurity over the Easter holiday: “Whilst the vouchers are for term time only, if there is a local arrangement to supply food that the school and the suppliers intend to continue over this period then that can be agreed and managed locally. This would need to be manageable within schools’ existing resources.”

Read the full letter here.

Government free school meal voucher scheme launches, but will not extend into Easter holidays

The government has published guidance indicating that children eligible for free school meals will benefit from a national voucher scheme allowing them to continue to access meals whilst they stay at home. Where schools cannot continue to provide meals for collection or delivery, they are advised to provide every eligible child with a weekly shopping voucher worth £15 to spend at supermarkets while schools are closed due to coronavirus.

The guidance stipulated that ‘vouchers are for term-time only’, meaning 1.3 million children could be facing food insecurity over the Easter holidays.

Michael Gove promises coordinated, minister-led response for all vulnerable groups

At today’s briefing, Minister for the Cabinet Office Michael Gove MP said, “We want to…ensure that we support not just the 1.5 million most vulnerable to the disease, but all those who need our help through this crisis. Those without social support, those in tough economic circumstances, those who need the visible hand of friendship at a challenging time. That’s why my cabinet colleague George Eustice, and the Food and Farming Minister Victoria Prentis will be leading work with food suppliers, retailers, local authorities and voluntary groups to support our neighbours in need.”  This is good news and we look forward to seeing what commitments will follow. Hopefully it is the start of the Food Aid Task Force which we have been calling for.

Mayor of London calls for removal of NRPF conditions and Universal Credit wait

Sadiq Khan, the Mayor of London, has written to the Prime Minister calling on the Government to support those with no recourse to public funds (NRPF) and those on low incomes. The Mayor urges the Government to remove the NRPF condition and the five-week wait for Universal Credit to help Londoners get the support they need in unprecedented circumstances.  It was very good to see this – we showed in the Children’s Future Food Inquiry that children with no recourse to public funds were extremely vulnerable to food insecurity.

Read the Mayor’s letter here.

Quality of government food parcels is subject to postcode lottery

Manchester Evening News draws attention to the inadequate nutritional content of government food parcels delivered in Rochdale, which compared unfavourably with the parcels received by vulnerable parties in other parts of England. On the day of delivery in Rochdale, only 44 parcels were distributed, despite there being 129 people in the borough who had requested emergency supplies.

Read the article in the Manchester Evening News here.

Defra posted a blog about the first batch of parcels distributed, stating that “the packages contain items such as coffee, tea, pasta, tinned goods, cereal, potatoes, two types of fruit and other basic supplies such as loo roll.”

But recipients of government parcels tweeted about the contents of their delivery, which included individual hotel-style shampoo bottles, individual tea bag and biscuit sachets and miniature milk cartons. Responses on social media questioned how the recipient would use the ingredients to make an adequate meal.

Concerns about the quality of food made available for shielded groups were raised by Local Authority representatives in several London boroughs, with nutritionists struggling to develop meal ideas based on the ingredients included, and flagging that limited fruit and vegetables were supplied. It was reported in early April that Public Health England was eventually brought on board to give nutrition guidance.

Further concerns were raised by charities and local authorities about the fact that many of the packages for shielded groups were not culturally appropriate, and did not accommodate dietary requirements.