UNICEF has launched a domestic emergency response in the UK for the first time in its more than 70-year history to help feed children amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
The UN agency, which is responsible for providing humanitarian aid to children worldwide, said that the pandemic was the most urgent crisis affecting children since World War II.
UNICEF has pledged a grant of ￡25,000 to community project School Food Matters, which is to use the money to supply 18,000 nutritious breakfasts to 25 schools over the two-week Christmas holiday and February half-term, feeding vulnerable children and families in Southwark who have been severely affected amid the pandemic.
Food delivery firm Abel & Cole is to provide 1.2 tons, or ￡4,500, of fruit and vegetables to include in the boxes.
School Food Matters founder and chief executive Stephanie Slater said: “We’re so grateful to UNICEF for providing this timely funding. The response to our summer breakfast boxes program 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,” Slater said. “Our breakfast boxes program has also shown us that the threshold for free school meal eligibility is too low to capture all the families in need of support. That’s why we’re getting behind the national food strategy call for an extension to free school meal eligibility.”
“We cannot continue to rely on civil society to fill the hunger gap, as too many children will miss out on the nutrition they need to thrive,” she said.
Labour Party deputy leader Angela Rayner said: “The fact that UNICEF is having to step in to feed our country’s hungry children is a disgrace and [British Prime Minister] Boris Johnson and [British Chancellor of the Exchequer] Rishi Sunak should be ashamed.”