In 2018, it’s shocking to discover that there are children in the most deprived areas of Portsmouth who are not getting enough to eat when they aren’t at school.
‘Holiday hunger’ is a real issue for those who return to the classroom after the summer break with lower BMIs (body mass indexes).
Meanwhile, there are others whose parents send them off to buy food from the local corner shop or takeaway.
The result is behavioural difficulties caused by a combination of poor diet, too much sugar and irregular eating habits.
So what should be done about it? Portsmouth City Council intends to pump an additional £4,000 from the youth and play service budget into addressing the problem via a summer food and fun project.
Of course that’s to be welcomed, but we completely understand when Gail Baird, who helps to run Food Portsmouth, says that she believes ‘holiday hunger’ is still not a high enough priority for the council.
Gail knows what she’s talking about, as last year Food Portsmouth handed out more than 2,500 free meals to needy children in the city over the summer holiday.
Council budgets are extremely tight, but if health issues among our children are not addressed then we are storing up costly problems for the future.
The extra £4,000 would support schemes running in the northern and eastern wards of the city. Yet a report by the city council admits issues around holiday hunger are ‘prevalent’ across Portsmouth.
Our city’s favourite son, Charles Dickens, famously wrote about Oliver Twist, the hungry young boy who dared to ask for more gruel. What would he make of the fact that, all these years later, children are still not getting enough to eat?