A quarter of parents say there have been times where they struggled to feed their children

Eir NolsoeData Journalist
January 18, 2021, 2:04 PM UTC

One in fourteen British parents also say they “always” or “often” find it difficult to provide food for their children during school holidays

The government announced at the start of the year that disadvantaged students would still receive free school meals during the third national lockdown. But Manchester United forward and food poverty campaigner Marcus Rashford is again making headlines after it appeared that some of the parcels contain insufficient food in questionable packaging.  

In December, Unicef also launched its first emergency response ever in the UK to supply breakfasts to some children in London during the Christmas holidays and February half-term.

Now a new YouGov survey of over 2,000 parents shows the scale of the problem some face in feeding their children. A quarter (25%) say there have been times where they have struggled to provide food for their children during term-time, as do 27% during school holidays.

This includes around 5-7% of parents who say they “always” or “often” find it hard to feed their children.

According to the Centre for Research in Social Policy’s measure of the “Minimum Income Standard” for the UK, a couple with one child in primary school and one in secondary school needs at least £40,309 to get by, while a single parent with one child in secondary school requires £27,735.

Our data shows that a third of parents (35%) with a household income below £40,000 at times struggle to feed their children during term-time. This includes 8% who always or often find it tough. A similar figure (37%) face difficulties during school holidays, with one in nine (11%) saying it’s a constant or near-constant struggle.

More than two in five parents with a household income below £25,000 (44%) also have difficulties providing enough food during term-time, while 46% at times struggle during school holidays. These figures include one in ten (10%) who often or always find it hard during term-time, while one in seven (14%) say the same during holidays.

Some parents most likely forego meals to feed their children

While many parents face difficulties feeding their children, it’s rarer that children have to skip meals for a lack of money.

Only 3% of all parents say they’ve been forced to make their children miss a meal. But nearly a quarter of all parents (23%) say they’ve had to forego food themselves, which suggests that some have had to go hungry to feed their little ones.

Among all Britons, about a fifth (21%) have had to miss out on food for a lack of funds.

The numbers are even more alarming among lower-income families and those who at times struggle to provide for their children.

Two in five parents with a household income below £25,000 (40%) have skipped a meal because they couldn’t afford to eat, while 6% say this applies to their children too.

In fact, most parents who at times face difficulties feeding their children (57%) have skipped a meal due to a lack of money, while one in nine (11%) have had to let their children go hungry at some point.

See the full results here