Holiday Hunger: What is it? How can your church respond?
Hannah Widdows from MakeLunch tells us how churches can help to make sure children do not go hungry in the holidays.
Think back to the days of your school holidays, what do you picture? Is it family holidays to the same (sometimes rainy) spot in Cornwall each year? Maybe you sat for hours in the back of a car, suitcases crammed in behind you? Did you spend your days with friends in sunny back gardens? I have a happy memory of camping with friends in Somerset; we would talk noisily for hours into the night, and get complaints from nearby campers in the morning.
I hope that for anyone reading this, you have good memories of your school holidays growing up. I hope that these memories don’t involve hunger, or feeling lonely, or increased stress for the adults who looked after you. Sadly for many today, this is a reality.
3.9 million children in the UK live in poverty.
And for many of these families, the school holidays compound the circumstances that make living in poverty so difficult.
One key issue is: where does the food come from? Free School Meals give children, in families who may be struggling financially, the chance to have a hot, healthy meal each weekday. But when school stops for the holidays, so does the food.
In a report brought out by Kellogg’s, 1 in 3 parents from low-income families have skipped a meal so their children can eat in the school holidays.
At MakeLunch, we are dedicated to equipping the church to respond to this issue in their local community. 5 years ago, we realised that churches could open their doors in the school holidays and feed children who otherwise might go hungry. And since then, we've seen over 100 churches join us in the fight against holiday hunger, serving more than 40,000 meals.
But there is more to be done. Lots more. And we have the perfect recipe. We work with churches across the country to offer them training, resources and support to set up a Lunch Kitchen. We have everything you need to get started: from a template letter to send to Head Teachers telling them about your Lunch Kitchen, to ideas for kid-friendly meals and resources to use for training volunteers.
One of our new church partners said:
'The training was so helpful...it equipped me to present the idea to the rest of the church too'.
That church is now running their Lunch Kitchen in Bath and recently served 44 meals in October half term.
Could your church start to fill the holiday hunger gap? When you next think 'how can our church engage with the local community?' or 'what do we do to support families and children?' or even 'are we following Jesus' instruction to feed the hungry?' maybe you could think 'MakeLunch' and start to explore the idea of fighting holiday hunger in your community.
Take a look at our website to find out more, or get in touch to carry on the conversation; we’d love to hear from you.
Hannah Widdows is the Network Development Coordinator at MakeLunch and can answer any questions you have (firstname.lastname@example.org).
 Households Below Average Income, An analysis of the income distribution 1994/95 – 2015/16, Tables 4a and 4b. Department for Work and Pensions, 2016
 ‘Isolation and Hunger: the impact of the school holidays on struggling families’, Kellogg’s, 2015Tags: Poverty