Lee-Anne Gillie: We must put an end to holiday hunger

Foodbank use is on the increase.  Picture Michael Gillen.
Foodbank use is on the increase. Picture Michael Gillen.
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According to the latest figures, more than 43,000 referrals were made last year for children in Scotland to receive a three-day supply of emergency food through the foodbank network.

While these numbers are uncomfortably high, the reality is that they are also likely to significantly under-represent the scale of food poverty which actually exists in Scottish households.

With around one in four children living in these conditions, often the only hot and nutritious meal they’re receiving comes from school lunches.

But what happens to them when term ends?

This issue of “holiday hunger” is something that’s come to our attention through one of our customers, Brakes. They are currently working on the development of an initiative called ‘Meals & More’.

This is a programme which has been set up to help alleviate the issue of child food poverty by providing tasty, nutritious meals to children and young people aged between two and 18 across the UK.

The scheme brings together other food service suppliers and non-profit organisations to provide holiday clubs across the country, providing meals and activities including sports, crafts and life skills. The programme targets areas of greatest need and helps provide a platform for the community to support holiday provision.

It’s unacceptable to us that there are young people in our local community suffering from malnutrition – and with so many staff having families of their own we were strongly affected by these findings. So we’ve taken steps to help boost this programme in Scotland by pledging £10,000 over three years. This money will go to ‘Meals & More’ to help support holiday clubs across Scotland.

We believe this programme has the ability to offer local families help in a real and tangible way that could have a practical impact on the future education and prospects of our younger generation.

We recently had the opportunity to share details of the ‘Meals & More’ programme with Calum Kerr MP when he paid a visit to our Selkirk factory.

As a result we are now preparing to look at how we can work with Youth Borders to help increase the provision of the initiative on our doorstep.

Within our local area there are two clear extremes of wealth and poverty.

Whilst this is the same across most of Scotland’s more populated areas, here we also have the issue of remoteness to contend with too.

This is why we believe it’s important local businesses such as ourselves get behind programmes like this to help make sure they can grow and provide support to as many young people as possible.

Lee-Anne Gillie is Director of UK Operations, RP Adam Ltd (Arpal Group), which is based in Selkirk.