The United Nations humanitarian aid agency, Unicef, has launched an emergency response to feed children in the United Kingdom, a first in Unicef’s 70-year history.
The coronavirus pandemic has greatly affected UK’s economy, and has left many people with less to no jobs. Many families have been struggling for months and are in need of assistance.
Anna Kettley, director of programmes at Unicef UK, said: “This is Unicef’s first ever emergency response within the UK, introduced to tackle the unprecedented impact of the coronavirus crisis and reach the families most in need.”
The UN agency launched the domestic emergency response from some 1,800 families in south London. The beneficiaries will be receiving breakfast boxes over the Christmas school holidays. The food packs will be distributed over 25 schools for two weeks, according to an article from The Guardian.
The program, jointly run with Food Power, Sustain’s food poverty program, will also be providing more than 6,000 breakfasts to families over the February half-term break.
Unicef said the coronavirus pandemic was the most urgent crisis affecting children since the second world war.
A YouGov poll earlier this year found that 2.4 million children were living in food insecure households. By October, an extra 900,000 children had been registered for free school meals.
Unicef has pledged a grant of £25,000 to the community project School Food Matters, which will use the money to supply 18,000 nutritious breakfasts.
Stephanie Slater, founder of School Food Matters, said they are grateful to Unicef for providing the much-needed funding.
“The response to our summer breakfast boxes programme has shown us that families are really struggling and many were facing the grim reality of a two-week winter break without access to free school meals and the indignity of having to rely on food banks to feed their children.”
UK’s Deputy Labor leader Angela Rayner called the need for Unicef’s intervention a “disgrace”, adding that the situation should have never reached such point.
A disgrace.— 🌈 Angela Rayner 🌈 (@AngelaRayner) December 16, 2020
You should be ashamed of yourselves @BorisJohnson @RishiSunak and the rest of you.https://t.co/P3u1fiJliM
“The fact that Unicef is having to step in to feed our country’s hungry children is a disgrace and Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak should be ashamed.”
“We are one of the richest countries in the world. Our children should not have to rely on humanitarian charities that are used to operating in war zones and in response to natural disasters.”
Her fellow Labour MP Richard Burgon tweeted: “Poverty is a political choice. The Gov’t could end UK child poverty by making the super-rich pay fair taxes. It refuses to.”
Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s official spokesman defended the Government’s record on the issue.
“We are committed to supporting the lowest-paid families through the pandemic and beyond. That’s why we have raised the living wage, boosted welfare support by billions of pounds and introduced the £170m COVID winter grant scheme to help children and families stay warm and well-fed during the coldest months,” the spokesperson said.