There is growing concern over the rates of childhood poverty in Shropshire. Research by End Child Poverty shows that 31% of children in North Shropshire, 26% of children in Shrewsbury and 30% of children in Ludlow are currently living in poverty. In many cases, the food budget is often the only area of spending low income families can cut.
Feedback from schools in our survey last year showed that there was growing concern about pupils coming into school without having had a proper breakfast, and sometimes not having had a proper meal the night before. One school said:
“Many of our children struggle with learning as they are hungry or have had inappropriate breakfast that doesn't fill them up or is too high in sugar. This can affect concentration, days off due to illness, toothache and all of these factors impact on learning, attainment and can also affect behaviour.”
Another teacher reported: “There appear to be so many more hungry pupils than I have ever been aware of in my thirty years of teaching. Pupils are much more vocal about being hungry too and are recognising that they feel unwell because they are hungry. We also have a record number of pupils in receipt of free school meals.”
Across the county there are over 4000 children currently eligible for free school meals, however just a handful of schools are able to provide a low-cost breakfast and there is little provision in school holidays to support these families.
Across Shropshire a number of communities are taking the lead in developing initiatives which address childhood food poverty. Shrewsbury Food Hub collects unsold supermarket food which is shared with children in 10 schools in Shrewsbury at breakfast or break time. Local businesses and the Youth Club in Wem run a free brunch club twice a week in each school holiday to support low income families. The Red House in Albrighton, working with a range of local community organizations, organize a free holiday club for children in the village.