11:51AM, Friday 04 September 2020
Food poverty in Slough is a ‘serious and growing problem’ and urgent action is needed to tackle it, a report has concluded.
An investigation into the issue, which is defined as the inability to afford or have access to food to make up a healthy diet, was launched by the council in January.
After holding discussions with Slough Foodbank, homelessness charity Shelter and schools in the area, the council’s food poverty task & finish group discovered an increasing reliance on foodbanks in the town. Figures from Slough Foodbank revealed 2,751 parcels were handed out in the first six months of this year, compared to 1,890 for the same period in 2019, a rise of more than 45 per cent.
The three main reasons for referrals to Slough Foodbank were low income, benefits delays and benefits issues.
Evidence collected by the panel found that people felt ‘embarrassed’ to be seen accessing a foodbank and the issue remained a ‘taboo’ among some residents.
The investigation also found that schools in Slough are putting in ‘massive efforts’ to try and keep children fed in the town, with ‘holiday hunger’ identified as a key issue when schools break-up for holidays.
The report, which was published this month, said: “There is a general perception among school headteachers that children are not eating enough and that schools see the tip of the iceberg only.”
One potential solution to the problem was for the council to provide funding so all schools can provide free breakfasts for pupils, regardless of family income, the report added.
The report said fuel poverty and food poverty went ‘hand in hand’, meaning parents affected by fuel poverty often went without food so their children could eat.
The latest Government figures, published in April 2020, estimate that there were 4,815 homes affected by fuel poverty in Slough, 8.9 per cent of the population.
This compares to a national average of 10.2 per cent and an average of 7.9 cent in the South East.
But six of the 15 wards in Slough rank above the national average, with Baylis and Stoke at 14.4 per cent and Chalvey at 12.97 per cent.
The council’s neighbourhoods and community services scrutiny panel was due to discuss the food poverty report at a meeting last night (Thursday).
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