‘It’s sad that so many kids need this’ – Children on deprived Sheffield estates going hungry in holidays
This summer, as many in the city head off to warmer climes, staff at a Sheffield charity will be spending their school holidays doing something rather different - making sure the children of four deprived city estates get fed.
Over the next five weeks, 21 so-called ‘holiday hunger’ events will he held in Lowedges, Batemoor, Jordanthorpe and Greenhill, making sure families in the area can access decent meals during the long summer break.
Similar events will be taking place all over the city this August, funded by money from Sheffield Council to improve the health and wellbeing of people in some of the poorest areas of the city.
Pam Daniel and Joy Arnott from the Lowedges based charity the Terminus Initiative said many already struggling families in the area feel ‘completely abandoned’ when term finishes.
Pam said: “I have done talks on holiday hunger and people have been really shocked. People can’t believe it is going on.
“I live in Dronfield and people there think they are posh. But this is not happening in a different country - it is going on at the bottom of their road.
“It is sad we have to be here and that so many children need this. It does make you angry.”
In this the second year of the scheme, the burden is being shared around a number of organisations on the estates after last year’s first event was inundated by 150 children.
Between them, the organisations running holiday hunger events on the four estates will host meals on all but four days of the summer holidays, leaving only the bank holiday and three other dates in August with nothing available.
The need in the area is clear. The estates - which are some of the toughest in Sheffield - have some of the highest rates of deprivation and worst statistics for health and wellbeing in the city, with low life-expectancy, poor mental health, high smoking, obesity, cancer and teenage pregnancy rates.
And the problem of poor kids not being fed during school holidays has now got so severe that some have even suggested families should have their benefits increased for periods when their children can not access free school meals.
Pam and Joy say their experiences in supporting families like this has given them a window on the difficulties many families in the area face on a daily basis.
“People who are poor need everything and food is often the first thing that goes,” said Pam.
“A lot of people’s lives are pretty chaotic. They have problems with loan sharks and depression and they can lack organisational skills and aspiration.
“Why would you do a college course when you either can’t see how it could help you or you couldn’t do it because you can’t read.”
The pair accept that there is a danger that those accessing services could feel there is a stigma involved, but say people needn’t worry.
“Everybody is welcome,” said Pam.
“We don’t want to just target the poor. No one is going to check your bank balance or your address on the way in.”
“When your kids are off school they want more food and there is a limit to the amount of stuff you can do for free.”
The children and families who turned up to this year’s first family brunch and craft event at St Peter’s Church in Greenhill were treated to scrambled eggs and beans on toast, fruit, juice and hot drinks.
They are also given a recipe pack for later in the week provided by the nearby Grace Food Bank, who have also made available free sanitary products for those who attend.
Children can also take part in crafts and other activities, and organisers are giving away a limited number of vouchers provided by Sheffield International Venues for family days at Ponds Forge and Ice Sheffield.
The meals are on top of a full programme of events the charity organises every month from knit and natter groups to women’s conversation clubs and, in July, a trip to Cleethorpes which saw 70 residents attend.
Pam said: “Most haven’t got cars so some of them had never left Sheffield or seen the sea. Some had never even left the estate.”
“They just wouldn’t have the confidence to get on a coach or a train as it would cause them such anxiety they just wouldn’t do it. But if we organise it for them they can.”
After the Terminus Initiative used their own funds last year to deliver the holiday hunger programme, this year the scheme is being fully funded by Sheffield Council.
However, an application for funds to help run this year’s programme made by council bosses was turned down by the government.
Councillor Mary Lea, Cabinet Member for Culture, Parks and Leisure said: “This initiative allows us to provide free food to those in need during the summer. We know that many low income families whose children are eligible for free school meals during term time may struggle to feed their children during the school holidays, and this initiative means that these children will not go hungry.
“All children and young people should have access to basic necessities such as food and, as is the case nationally, it is very sad that some do not. I’m proud that in Sheffield we are able to provide this initiative to make the school holidays a little bit easier for children and their families.”
Louise Haigh, MP for Sheffield Heeley, said: “We’re fortunate that dedicated volunteers are supporting those in need, but in one of the richest countries on earth families shouldn’t be going hungry.
“Low wages, high bills, and cuts to social security have all led to an increase in poverty in Sheffield and throughout the country. The roll-out of Universal Credit has been particularly disastrous and has led to people being left for weeks without any income.
“The Government needs to invest in our economy and public services to tackle the root causes of poverty but, instead, Boris Johnson has pledged to introduce tax cuts that will benefit the richest in society.”