Tackling child hunger: a call to action for businesses in the UK

Food insecurity remains a persistent challenge in the UK for families, particularly those in the poorest 20% of households. According to the Trussell Trust, 47% of households experiencing food insecurity include children under the age of 16. They also estimate that a staggering 4.2 million, almost a third of all UK children, are in food poverty.

The impact of child hunger and food insecurity

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation defines food insecurity as a ‘lack of secure access to sufficient amounts of safe and nutritious food for normal growth and development and an active and healthy life’.

Families with children are disproportionately affected by this issue because they spend a higher proportion of their income on food and are more prone to fluctuating costs. Food delivery specialist Deliveroo estimates that one in ten parents expect to turn to food banks or related support in the coming months, indicating the severity of the situation.

Notably, 89% of individuals referred to food banks in the Trussell Trust network are recipients of means-tested benefits, emphasising the financial struggles faced by these families.

The consequences of this include:

Child health and development:

  • Children facing food insecurity may experience malnutrition or undernutrition, which can affect their physical and cognitive development.
  • Lack of access to nutritious food can contribute to health problems, including vitamin deficiencies and obesity, depending on the types of food available.

Educational consequences:

  • Hunger and poor nutrition can negatively impact a child’s ability to concentrate and perform well in school. This may contribute to lower educational attainment and hinder future opportunities.

Emotional and mental wellbeing:

  • Living with food insecurity can be emotionally distressing for both children and parents, leading to stress, anxiety, and other mental health issues.

Social inequality:

  • Food insecurity often correlates with broader social and economic inequalities. Families with lower incomes, inadequate social support, or those facing unemployment are more likely to experience food insecurity.

Long-term health effects:

  • Persistent food insecurity can lead to long-term health issues, including an increased risk of chronic diseases such as diabetes, cardiovascular problems, and other diet-related conditions.

Short-term solutions: crisis management

Addressing child hunger requires immediate action to ensure short-term relief and this is something that all businesses can support.

Between April and December 2023, Auriga Services issued almost £3 million worth of free school meal and food vouchers on behalf of local authorities, allowing children to access hot and nutritious food during the school holidays. Businesses can also support this service through donated funds to ensure that even more children are fed at least once a day.

Volunteering or providing financial and food donations to local food banks is another effective way for businesses to make an immediately positive impact.

Long-term solutions: boosting Income

While short-term solutions are crucial for crisis management, sustainable progress requires a greater focus on boosting family incomes. Businesses can actively support initiatives that put more money into families’ pockets, enabling parents to afford food in the long run. This can be achieved through income maximisation and welfare benefit advice.

Auriga Services, with its commitment to community support, can play a pivotal role by providing a direct line to specialist support for communities. By partnering with organisations like Auriga Services, businesses can contribute to long-term solutions that address the root causes of child hunger.

Meeting the growing demand

The demand for support has reached unprecedented levels, with the Independent Food Aid Network reporting an 89% increase in demand between December 2022 and January 2023 compared to the previous year. The Trussell Trust distributed a record 2.99 million emergency food parcels in 2022/23, a 37% increase from the previous year.

Auriga Services’ capabilities in providing direct support can be instrumental in meeting this growing demand. By leveraging our expertise, businesses can facilitate access to money advice and essential resources, making a tangible impact on the lives of families facing food insecurity.

How businesses can use ESG to help hungry children

Businesses have a duty to ensure that they have a robust and effective environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG) strategy. By integrating initiatives to combat child hunger into their business, they can make a meaningful contribution to the wellbeing of communities.

Jill Wheeler, chief executive of Auriga Services said: “In 2024, it is astounding to see so many children in the UK going without food. It is however encouraging to see the collective efforts to address the challenges children are facing. By tackling hunger, we’re not only ensuring brighter futures but also fostering a society where their wellbeing can flourish.

“Auriga Services is well positioned to help. We manage and administer Free School Meal and Food Voucher schemes and would love to speak to your business about how you can ensure that more children have access to nutritious meals throughout the year, whilst ensuring that you have a robust ESG programme that will benefit society as a whole.”