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Revealed: Life for those experiencing holiday hunger in Guildford

5 minute read
Revealed: Life for those experiencing holiday hunger in Guildford

Published at 5:13pm 12th August 2019.

“To be a graduate, an intelligent woman and working – to have to use a foodbank is ridiculous”, says one mum.

“Whilst I feel like I have paid lots of taxes in my lifetime, it’s embarrassing.”

As a single-mum with a seven-year-old son working zero-hour contracts foodbanks and holiday hunger is the norm. 

But living on low income and juggling benefit and financial support brings insecurity.

“It’s a very singular trip to the foodbank,” she adds.

“I wouldn’t tell anyone other than my very close friends. There’s a lot of wealth in this county and it’s unconscionable that someone who is working all the hours that they can is being penalised.”

The 48-year-old, who wants to remain anonymous but is willing to share her story, is not alone. 

A report into food poverty in Guildford published in June found that food poverty is a “hidden poverty” in the borough.

Two foodbanks in the borough issued more than 2,000 food parcels in 2017-18 with that figure set to rise this year. 

Holiday hunger was another area identified where parents are either unable to afford to feed their children during the school holidays without access to free school meal schemes or they have to go hungry themselves. 

As a mum who works but still has to claim benefits and housing support, she adds: “I go without so he can have fruit as I don’t want to give him beige food. How can you have a job and not be paid enough to feed your family?

“It’s very hard and you have that internal guilt that come the holidays you cannot spend time with the children because you have to work. 

“All the stereotypes the press would like to show are people who cannot be bothered. The majority are working families.

“It feels like there is a class barrier being stirred up between the middle class and people on benefits.

“The volunteers at the foodbank are the kindest people. They are a real support. It’s only me judging myself.”

The report into food poverty in Guildford highlighted the devastating experiences of families in the borough struggling to make ends meet. 

Guildford has four of the most deprived neighbourhoods in England with Westborough, Stoke, Worplesdon and Ash Wharf measuring inequalities and levels of poverty.

In three of the neighbourhoods over a quarter of the children are considered to be living in poverty.

CHIPS holiday play scheme in Guildford will this summer provide hot meals and subsidised childcare for over 200 children. 

Around 64 children visit CHIPS a day during the holidays.

Her son is one of the children to benefit from a hot meal every day at CHIPS.

She adds: “The guys here are amazing. They are like family. Whoever is funding the meals for this project I am so grateful and grateful for whoever subsidises CHIPS – they are amazing.”

CHIPS is run over four weeks by trained and professional childcare workers such as teachers, teaching assistants and play workers. 

The charity started up in 2002 as a subsidised play scheme targeting low-income families. 

Two years ago staff realised the need to provide hot, healthy meals at lunch time and sought funding from private companies to help provide the food and the professional workers. 

Mary Chambers started working there when she was 18 and now 12 years later is the co-ordinator and has seen the difference the hot meals can make to a family and the children. 

She says: “We provide respite for families as well as childcare and we are giving the children a bit of a holiday as some of them don’t go on holiday. 

“The holiday times do cost a lot of money. It’s very expensive as parents can’t work or have to take time off.”

Slice of Pie cook and provide the meals which are paid for by sponsorship and donations including money from contributions from borough and county councillors. 

Mary Chambers
Mary Chambers who runs CHIPS has worked there for 12 years.

Mary adds: “For some of these families it’s a way they don’t have to spend money on packed lunches – which can be expensive. 

“We were seeing children with a lot of processed food for lunch as that is cheaper. 

“We have noticed a change of behaviour. We all sit down together and it’s like a family dinnertime so it’s very calm.

“The families we help are just trying to do their best on a low income. It’s very hard to know we cannot access everybody. 

“The fact we are able as a team to care for 209 children over four weeks – it gives us something to work for because we know we are helping people who need a bit of respite or support so they are able to go to work.”

CHIPS costs around £30,000 per year to fund and offers free places for children referred as well as heavily subsidised places for others to attend.

The scheme this year has been running at Guildford Grove primary (Park Barn) from July 29 for two weeks followed and will now spend two weeks at Weyfield Academy (Stoke) from 9am – 4.30pm.

For more information about attending the playscheme or supporting them as a volunteer call 07729 878 964 email chipsguildford@hotmail.co.uk or visit www.chipsholidayplay.co.uk

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