18:10 GMT27 September 2020
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    The United Kingdom has implemented social-distancing measures to combat the spread of coronavirus (Covid-19) and prevent overloading of patients onto the National Health Service. Due to existing food insecurity and the reliance on food banks and school lunches before the lockdown, many of Britain's poorest are at breaking point.

    Nearly a fifth of UK households with children have been unable to access food in the last five weeks, according to data from The Food Foundations seen exclusively by The Observer on Sunday.

    This marks almost a doubling of those facing food insecurity since the lockdown began on 23 March, with the strain primarily being on homes with large families, single-parents, and disabled children.

    According to the data, 30% of lone parents, 46% of parents with a disabled child are vulnerable to a lack of food availability and are finding it difficult to meet basic nutritional needs.

    Of the 621,000 children who were able to access free breakfast clubs before the pandemic, only 136,000 are now being provided with an alternative.

    31% of children entitled to free school meals are also not receiving a substitute, with more than 500,000 children being left behind.

    Many families rely on school-provided breakfasts and lunches to provide daily and with educational institutions close across the country due to the national lockdown, poorer families are being the hardest hit.

    So far the government's scheme of providing children with £15 a week vouchers until schools can open again has seen many parents fall through and unable to download the vouchers or redeem them at supermarkets.

    The Food Foundation urged the government to introduce a series of measures including an emergency income support scheme, the doubling of child benefits, and for fortnightly social security payments.

    “The government needs to move fast to protect vulnerable children and make them a priority. Having access to a nutritious diet is a basic human right. Struggling families need money in their pockets now and we need government to look urgently at income support and child benefits to provide solutions", said Anna Taylor, executive director of the Food Foundation.

    Food banks have also been overwhelmed as the lockdown continues, with the Trussell Trust reporting on Friday an 81% rise in people requiring emergency food parcels in March compared to the same month a year ago.

    The spike in demand for children using food-bank services has experienced a 121% increase. Reports by the Independent Food Network corroborate the spike with data revealing a 59% increase for emergency food support from February to March.

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    Tags:
    coronavirus, COVID-19, poverty, hungry children, Food Banks
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