The Royal Borough of Greenwich is a great place to grow up for most of our young people, however after nearly a decade of gruelling government austerity the sad truth is that one in four children in Greenwich compared to one in five nationally is living in poverty, and that’s why I’m backing the Co-operative Party’s Food Justice Campaign.

Food poverty is a real issue. A healthy and balanced diet is central to people’s lives, supporting both general physical health and mental wellbeing. But many Londoners work long hours are not paid enough to make ends meet, or have the means to give their children the quality of life they would like to. Instead of looking forward to the holidays they become a time of dread for households on a stretched budget when regular free school lunches are not available and providing meals during the holidays is an additional financial burden.

In Greenwich there are currently around 7,000 children benefiting from free school meals or roughly 16% of school-aged children. National and local research has found that children often return to school in poorer health following longer periods without regular free school meals.

Holiday meals

To combat holiday hunger, this Easter for the fourth consecutive time the Council is funding free meals at youth clubs and adventure playgrounds across the borough so every child can get a yummy and healthy lunch or dinner. We work with local partners Greenwich Co-operative Development Agency (GCDA) who batch cook the nutritious and delicious meals and deliver them to youth clubs and playgrounds run by Greenwich Leisure Limited (GLL) and Charlton Athletic Community Trust (CACT) Youth Services. IKEA Greenwich has also just generously donated free colourful cutlery, cups and plates. When the programme was piloted last summer holidays 4,560 meals were served.

I have seen first-hand the difference our meals make when dropping into to meet some of the young people tucking into their bowl of spaghetti, or making their own chicken salad wraps, before they run off to play with their mates. Holiday Meals means rumbling tummies are banished and kids can just get on with being kids, although I hope in the future they will not be necessary at all.

Book now to attend Unleashing Community Power, our local government conference, where we will be discussing Food Justice.