237,000 London children living in food poverty

As many as 250,000 children in London are believed to be living in food poverty according to a “heart-breaking” new report.

by Joe Talora, Local Democracy Reporter

A sign propped up in a shop window says 'becuz food costs money'
Photo: Mark Brown

A 2021 to 2022 survey conducted by the Mayor of London found that 14 per cent of children in the capital aged 16 or under had “low” or “very low” food security – equivalent to around 237,000 children.

But a new report from Labour London Assembly Member Marina Ahmad has found that the recent economic downturn and soaring inflation is likely to have pushed the figure past the quarter of a million mark.

The report draws on previous research from the Food Foundation, which found that food insecurity had doubled nationally in 2022, and from the Independent Food Aid Network, which found that 91 per cent of food banks have seen demand increase since July this year.

Ms Ahmad, who chairs the London Assembly’s economy committee, has said the figures “will only increase” as the cost of living crisis continues to spiral.

She said: “It is heart-breaking that children go to school, go out to play and go to bed, hungry. My report highlights that quarter of a million children in London are living this experience, every day.

“People are no longer choosing between eating or heating. All too often they cannot afford either. Too many parents are giving up meals every day so that their children can eat.”

The report recommends that the Mayor of London set up a Childhood Commission for London to map out a path to eliminating child poverty in the capital, while continuing to lobby the Government for universal free school meals for all primary and secondary school children.

Last month, Sadiq Khan renewed calls for universal free school meals and revealed that City Hall analysis had found families could save £440 across the academic year if they were introduced.

Mr Khan said: “The Government must act now to introduce universal free school meals for all primary school children. This would help build a better London for everyone, saving families hundreds of pounds a year, ensuring all primary pupils are eating a healthy, nutritious meal at school and also eliminating the stigma associated with being eligible for free school meals, to increase uptake among those who need it most.”

The Government has said that it has “expanded access to free school meals more than any other government in recent decades”, with around 1.9 million children now eligible.

To qualify for free school meals, a household on universal credit in England must earn less than £7,400 a year after tax regardless of how many children are in the family.

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