Skip to main content

Blog: A badge of shame - Child food poverty in England

BASW England Professional Officer Gavin Moorghen reflects on the growing issue of child food poverty in England and invites members to join an online event to consider possible solutions and our professional response

Food poverty has been brought under the spotlight during the pandemic thanks in part to Marcus Rashford’s campaign to extend free school meals into the school holidays.

It is shameful that child food poverty exists and continues to grow in England in 2020 – and it is unforgivable that this week, elective representatives have been trying to shift blame and stigma onto families.

Food poverty does not start and end with Covid-19 and we know it will remain a problem, whether or not the government backs renewed calls to fund free school meals over the holidays. Any solution will need a sustainable, long-term strategy which puts social work at the centre.

Be part of the solution to food poverty in England

That’s why on 4 November we’re hosting an online event to examine food poverty during the pandemic for children and their families in England. This will be an interactive forum and will consider possible solutions and what our professional response should be to food poverty for children.

Find out more and book your place

My six pointers for practice - what are yours?

These six pointers for practice are based on my own experiences. 

Please do share your own top tips for addressing child food poverty (you can tweet me) and come along to our event.

1 - A hungry home is not a stable home

Food insecurity stems from the anxiety of not knowing how to pay for food, reducing one’s intake or quality of food and the hunger caused by having no food. All of this impacts on the health and wellbeing of both children and their families.  

2 - Short- and long-term harm

A relative once shared with me a child-hood memory of his mother breaking down in tears because she had no food for him. It left him with a permanent emotional scar. Be mindful that child poverty affects physical and mental health. But also be aware children can suffer from a ripple effect of these harms into adulthood. 

3 - Spare a thought for parents

A mother approached a service I worked for asking for money. She had been going hungry so that her children could eat and at one stage she resorted to taking discarded food from a skip. We can’t expect parents to be effective carers if their health and dignity is being sacrificed like this.

4 - Be inclusive

A member recently reported a father she worked with felt ashamed at being unable to feed his children. Asking for help with food costs can feel like a failure. So when someone does ask for help we should try and be supportive. Also if you work in a local council ask yourself if the service is trying to reach all children and families who are food poor.

5 - Be part of the solution

Remember our professional purpose. Aim to ensure the children you work for are safe, happy and healthy. To achieve this they will need a good diet and a healthy home environment.

6 - Ethics and the bigger picture

During a period as a maternity social worker I supported pregnant drug users who often had no food at home. I tended to apply a harm minimisation approach and recall taking an expectant parent food shopping several times. Arguably I was enabling her drug use. But ultimately she had a better chance of success as a parent if she had a full stomach.