Quarter of a million London children living in food poverty, City Hall report warns

“It cannot be right that in the capital city of the sixth richest country in the world some children do not have enough food to eat, to safely grow, learn and play.”
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A quarter of a million of London’s children are living in foodpoverty, a City Hall report has warned.

It comes after a 2021 survey by mayor Sadiq Khan found 14% of under 16s in the capital had “low” or “very low” levels of food security - equivalent to around 237,129 children.

Now a new report asserts that the current figure is expected to be “much higher”, at 250,000 and rising, and warns action is “a matter of urgency to stop children going hungry”.

Food bank use is rising as 250,000 children in London are living in food poverty, a report warned. Photo: GettyFood bank use is rising as 250,000 children in London are living in food poverty, a report warned. Photo: Getty
Food bank use is rising as 250,000 children in London are living in food poverty, a report warned. Photo: Getty

Labour assembly member Marina Ahmad, who led the report, said: “It is heart-breaking that children go to school, go out to play and go to bed, hungry.

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.

“It cannot be right that in the capital city of the sixth richest country in the world some children do not have enough food to eat, to safely grow, learn and play.”

Campaigners have called on mayor Sadiq Khan to launch a childhood commission aimed at eradicating child hunger in the capital - after revelations hundreds of thousands of children are living in families that cannot afford basic necessities, including food.

Marina Ahmad, with Southwark foodbank team members, at the report’s launch in Peckham. Photo: London Assembly LabourMarina Ahmad, with Southwark foodbank team members, at the report’s launch in Peckham. Photo: London Assembly Labour
Marina Ahmad, with Southwark foodbank team members, at the report’s launch in Peckham. Photo: London Assembly Labour

And backers also want to see universal free school meals for all primary and secondary school children during the term time and holidays.

The report, ‘Growing hungry: A quarter of a million London children in food poverty’ is endorsed by food campaigner and BBC presenter of Eat Well For Less Chris Bavin.

It was developed alongside poverty charities such as 4in10, Pecan and The Trussell Trust.

Inflation in the UK economy - the sixth largest in the world - is currently over 10%, with food inflation soaring to 14% and the average weekly shop at a 42-year record high.

Food insecurity doubled nationwide in 2022, Food Foundation research found, while the Independent Food Aid Network’s food bank survey showed 82% are suffering supply issues.

And London boroughs now make up five of the top ten UK areas with the highest levels of child poverty, with Tower Hamlets close to double the national average.

Ms Ahmad, Labour’s City Hall economy spokesperson, who is standing to be the party’s candidate for Camberwell and Peckham, called the document’s findings “heartbreaking”.

She warned: “These figures will only increase further as the cost of living continues to push more families into poverty. It is almost incomprehensible that we are talking about London.

“We will continue to see even more children who might go to school or bed with their tummy rumbling, who are not able to have friends around for dinner, or who feel guilty as their parents go without eating to ensure that they don’t have to.”

BBC presenter Chris Bavin is backing the report. Photo: London Assembly LabourBBC presenter Chris Bavin is backing the report. Photo: London Assembly Labour
BBC presenter Chris Bavin is backing the report. Photo: London Assembly Labour

Presenter Mr Bavin, who is backing calls for a Childhood Commission said: “Hunger cannot be wiped out with food donations, tips to reduce shopping bills or food swaps alone.

“It is a travesty that children are going to bed, going to school, with empty stomachs.”

Katherine Hill, from 4in10, London’s Child Poverty Network, said: “There can be no more important agenda than ending childhood hunger in our communities.

“Our children’s right to adequate and nutritious food is currently being denied to far too many and these recommendations offer a clear path towards putting that right.”

The report also calls for immediate action to lobby the government to raise incomes substantially and provide immediate monetary support to tackle the cost of living crisis.

It was launched last week at an event at a food services centre in Peckham, Southwark.

The mayor of London has been contacted for comment.