UNICEF is helping to feed hungry children in the UK as part of the charity’s first domestic emergency response in its 70-year history.
Some 1,800 families struggling as a result of the coronavirus pandemic will receive breakfast boxes over the Christmas school holidays, the charity School Food Matters said.
The Food Power for Generation Covid initiative, in partnership with Sustain: the alliance for better food and farming, and the Southwark Food Power Alliance, has been made possible by a £25,000 grant from Unicef UK.
It represents the first time the organisation has developed a domestic emergency response.
Unicef said the coronavirus pandemic is the most urgent crisis affecting children since the Second World War.
The families in Southwark, south London, will receive 18,000 breakfasts which will be distributed by schools for two weeks when they break up.
The programme will also provide 6,750 breakfasts to families over the February half-term break.
Anna Kettley, director of programmes at Unicef UK, said: “This is Unicef’s first ever emergency response within the UK, introduced to tackle the unprecedented impact of the coronavirus crisis and reach the families most in need.
“The grant for School Food Matters will address the gap in current provision for children, providing approximately 1,800 children with breakfast bags during the Christmas holidays and February half term.
“This funding will help build stronger communities as the impact of the pandemics worsen, but ultimately a longer-term solution is needed to tackle the root causes of food poverty, so no child is left to go hungry.”
School Food Matters founder Stephanie Slater said: “The response to our summer Breakfast Boxes programme has shown us that families are really struggling and many were facing the grim reality of a two-week winter break without access to free school meals and the indignity of having to rely on food banks to feed their children.
“By providing our breakfast boxes, families know that their children will have a great start to the day with a healthy nutritious breakfast.”
The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “We would point to the substantial action we’ve taken to ensure that children don’t go hungry through the pandemic and I would point to the additional £16 million we pledged not too long ago to food distribution charities.”
Deputy Labour leader Angela Rayner said: “The fact that Unicef is having to step in to feed our country’s hungry children is a disgrace and Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak should be ashamed.
“We are one of the richest countries in the world. Our children should not have to rely on humanitarian charities that are used to operating in war zones and in response to natural disasters.
“Charities and businesses across the country have done a brilliant job stepping in where the Government has failed, but it should have never come to this.”
Additional Reporting by PA Media