Children 'eat five breakfasts at youth club as they're unsure when next meal is'

Children in poverty wolf down food when they get a chance as they have little idea of when they’ll eat next, a youth charity leader has said.

Some kids eat up to five breakfasts when they visit and ask to take food home for their parents and siblings, Amanda Naylor, CEO at Manchester Youth Zone, says.

She has issued a warning about the ‘stark’ reality of families who choose between food and heating and view washing powder as a ‘luxury’.

Over the last six to nine months, her staff have noticed a 400% increase in requests for the food pantry.

Speaking to LBC, Ms Naylor said: ‘I was speaking to a mum the other day and she said “What do I do with my £5 electricity? Do I use it to cook a meal? Do I use it to do the washing? Or do I use it to run a bath for my child?”

‘Those are the kinds of choices families are making, because what do they do with the very little they’ve got?’

Manchester Youth Zone is designed to offer activities like dance, climbing and art to kids in poverty and welcomes 1,000 people every week.

After seeing young people go hungry without school meals during Covid, staff started to give out food.

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This was intended to only be for the pandemic – but the cost of living crisis has pushed them to continue this service.

‘We’re giving more and more food parcels to families that include essentials like washing powder and toothpaste that are seen as luxuries rather than the basics’, Ms Naylor said.

‘More starkly, I think what we see is the real impact of food poverty.

‘Children who come to us during summer are eating five breakfasts – not because they’re hungry for five breakfasts but because they don’t know when their next meal is coming.

‘So it’s like “let’s get as much food down me as I can”, or they ask to take home food for their parents and siblings.

‘That’s the very real data that we’re seeing every day, children who are hungry.

‘We’re supposed to be a youth facility where children can come and play and do sports and do media.

‘We’re not social services, but children can’t do those things if they’re hungry and they haven’t been fed.’

It comes as new analysis suggests more than 200,000 children could be pushed into poverty if benefits rise in line with wages instead of inflation.

Liz Truss is facing mounting pressure as her government considers whether to link an increase to earnings rather than the currently much higher measure of prices.

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