Nearly 2000 South London families will receive food donations from Unicef.
As Marcus Rashford’s tireless campaigning over the summer shows, food poverty remains a prevalent problem in the UK – and with the Trussell Trust reporting that 1.9m food bank parcels have been given to people in the past year, it’s an issue that is only growing over time. Now, with the pandemic further squeezing budgets and putting even more people in danger of food poverty, Unicef (the United Nations Children’s Fund) has stepped in to make their first-ever donation in the UK, with a pledge to feed struggling families in South London.
A statement from Unicef UK on Funding of UK Food Programmes. pic.twitter.com/VXZqugReqc
— Unicef UK (@UNICEF_uk) December 17, 2020
Setting aside for a moment the question of whether the sixth-richest country on Earth should rely on charity assistance to feed its hungry children, the £25,000 donation from Unicef will be used to help send breakfast boxes to 1800 families across South London, in order to help feed children and parents over the Christmas holidays. Noting their unusual UK domestic response, Unicef stated that they regard the coronavirus pandemic as the greatest crisis facing UK children since World War 2.
The breakfast boxes will be delivered by the School Food Matters project, who will also welcome £4500 worth of donated fruit and veg from Abel & Cole as part of the delivery boxes. Founder and chief executive Stephanie Slater expressed her gratitude to Unicef, and shared her hope that families in South London would be able to look forward to a brighter Christmas break with fewer worries about keeping their children fed without access to free school meals.
We will continue to support #Southwark families at risk of food poverty this winter with nutritious breakfasts, thanks to generous donations from local businesses & individuals. If you would like to help, you can donate here: https://t.co/7KlexLsVrd #ENDCHILDFOODPOVERTY pic.twitter.com/FsXyCilmog
— School Food Matters (@sfmtweet) December 17, 2020
Unsurprisingly, the unexpected donation led to a brief debate in parliament about the issue of food security in the UK. In response to a question from Coventry South MP Zarah Sultana about whether the government had been lying down on the job when it came to food security, leader of the House of Commons Jacob Rees-Mogg said “I think it is a real scandal that Unicef should be playing politics in this way”, and said that the organisation – who help feed millions of hungry children around the world each year – “should be ashamed of itself”.
Whatever your views on Unicef’s intervention, let’s hope this is the last time that the agency will feel compelled to step in and help feed UK families. Meanwhile, if you’d like to pitch in to help fight food poverty in the UK, you can get involved with School Food Matters here, donate to the Trussell Trust here, or write to your local MP conveying your concerns.
Also published on Medium.