Holiday hunger

MQT on 2017-09-14
Session date: 
September 14, 2017
Question By: 
Fiona Twycross
Labour Group
Asked Of: 
The Mayor


What is your estimate of the number of children that went hungry in London during the recent school holidays?


Answer for Holiday hunger

Answer for Holiday hunger

Answered By: 
The Mayor

Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  I am afraid that the data required to accurately report how many children went hungry during the recent school holidays in London does not exist.  However, we do know that there are around 700,000 children living in poverty in London and are therefore at risk of going hungry during the school holidays.  Any hunger among children in a city as prosperous as London is simply not acceptable.  I am pleased the Government has now dropped plans to end universal free school meals for four to seven-year-olds, but free school meals are not always taken up by children who really need them and are obviously not available in school holidays.


I therefore give my full support to the Kitchen Social programme run by the Mayor’s Fund for London.  This summer, the programme delivered holiday food provision across 16 boroughs and served approximately 10,000 free school meals to 1,600 children.  This October half-term, Kitchen Social will be supporting an additional 30 Kitchen Social clubs, but this support is only the tip of the iceberg.  To make the programme more sustainable, the Mayor’s Fund is raising the profile of holiday hunger through campaigning and evidencing the negative impact it has on young Londoners.  As you know, Rosie Boycott, Chair of the London Food Board, is passionate about the issue of holiday hunger.  My new London Food Strategy, to be published early in 2018, will include a focus on food poverty and hunger to help all Londoners to secure access to healthy, affordable food.


I also support the work of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Hunger and Food Poverty and its Chair, Sir Frank Field MP, who is raising a Bill to ensure that there is a statutory responsibility for this UK-wide.  However, food poverty and hunger do not exist in isolation, and that is why I am working to make London more affordable so parents can feed their children in the holidays.  That means making public transport more affordable, making sure homes are genuinely affordable and also making sure Londoners get a decent wage for doing a decent day’s work.


Fiona Twycross AM:  Thank you.  You have anticipated most of my supplementary questions, but I really welcome the work of the Mayor’s Fund for London on this area.  I saw some of the work they did in the pilots last summer and the difference they can make, albeit with a relatively small number of children, is quite remarkable.


What more would you like the project to achieve going forward?  You have mentioned the work in the half-term, but have you got particular ambitions and goals for the project going forward?


Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  One of the key benefits of the work in relation to the Kitchen Social project is around social integration.  Matthew Ryder [QC, Deputy Mayor for Social Integration, Social Mobility and Community Engagement] is working with Rosie [Boycott, Chair of the London Food Board] to see how we can target those parts of London to try to get a better connectivity between children from different communities.


The frank answer is we are limited by the resources we have and the resources we can raise.  As you know, we have got no statutory responsibility in this area, but we think it is important.  The success of this scheme is contingent upon how much money we can raise with the Mayor’s Fund, the generosity of those who give to the Mayor’s Fund, but also how much money we can leverage in from other areas as well.  My frustration is the lack of resources, but clearly if [Sir] Frank Field [MP, Chair, All Party Parliamentary Group on Hunger and Food Poverty] is successful in relation to moving the Government nationally in relation to recognising this big gap during the holidays, that will help us in relation to the work we are going to do in this area.


Fiona Twycross AM:  I am sure you are aware that the right to food is a human right, and you highlight the scandal of child hunger in our city.  Are you concerned that Government policy, particularly around Social Security and welfare reform, is potentially increasing the levels of children who are going hungry in London?


Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  Absolutely.  There are 700,000 children living in poverty in London.  That is why I referred in my first answer to the interconnection between the cost of living in London, wages, housing, transport.  I wanted to make sure we addressed those issues as well.  They are all interconnected and the report referred to by Tom Copley [AM] in relation to the NAO report talked about the connection between welfare benefit changes from this Government and homelessness.  I know from my evidence as an MP and also as the Mayor of London, there is also a connection between children going hungry and Government policy in relation to all sorts of issues around housing, around transport, in relation to the remuneration people are getting.  That is why all our policies are connected in that extent, of trying to address the issue of young Londoners not being able to fulfil their potential.  Food poverty, food hunger during the holidays is just one of the things we have to address.


Fiona Twycross AM:  Thank you.