PARENTS across Portsmouth need more support to feed their children during the summer holidays, say politicians and charity workers.
Councillors and food group volunteers have backed a parliamentary bill that would place a legal duty on local authorities to provide free meals and activities for children in the summer months.
The news comes just a few weeks after a food bank in North End ran out of supplies after a surge in demand from families.
Community Food Connection, which has been working with supermarket chain Tesco to provide meals for children over the school holidays, say that they delivered over 11 million meals nationwide – with 37,798 of those in Portsmouth.
Lord Mayor of Portsmouth Ken Ellcome said: ‘Holiday hunger has become a real issue for families on lower incomes.
‘I am so proud to see something like this happening in Portsmouth, and with local businesses getting involved and offering free produce and services to those in need, we can all help to make a positive difference in the area.’
Gail Baird helps to run Food Portsmouth, which has also been offering free lunches at six adventure playgrounds in the city during the summer holidays.
She said: For many families, providing those extra meals during school holidays can be a real struggle.
‘The scheme enables those children entitled to free school meals to continue receiving a filling, hot meal during the school holidays, in a fun, social and active environment.
‘But the truth is, between us and the food banks in the city, we cannot stop this sort of thing – we need help from local authorities.’
Portsmouth City Council has been running the Holiday Hunger scheme throughout the holidays.
Health development officer Marshada Chowdhury said: ‘The feedback we have received from the Holiday Hunger project highlights that it is not only the offer of free food that is so significant for families, but the opportunity to engage with the wider community in a safe environment.’
Kate Pickles from the Paulsgrove Holiday Lunch Club said: ‘What we have been able to do is amazing and so important as well.
‘If children are malnourished then they don’t focus properly, and will struggle in the classroom once they go back to school – so this news is fantastic to hear.’