More than a third of primary and secondary school teachers in London have reported an increase in children coming to school hungry after the pandemic, according to a report in the Evening Standard. Researchers found that 34 per cent of teachers in London have seen a rise in children coming to class without having had breakfast compared to the start of the autumn term in 2019.
The study, commissioned by Heinz and children’s charity Magic Breakfast, said two-thirds of teachers expect more children will be coming to school without breakfast once the Government Furlough scheme ends next month and unemployment starts to rise rapidly.
Over two million more are set to lose their jobs when Furlough ends at the end of October, and research by the Institute for Public Policy Research is predicting unemployment levels “not seen since the Great Depression of the 1930s”.
It’s hard to imagine a depression like the 1930s, and it is areas outside London and the South East who will suffer the most.
It’s time to challenge the status quo that inequality is acceptable in very large areas of the UK, but it’s the North West and North East that top the league tables time and time again.
The time is fast approaching for a new Jarrow march on Parliament. The original one took place during October 1936 and was an organised protest against the unemployment and poverty suffered in the English Tyneside town of Jarrow during the 1930s. Around 200 men (or “Crusaders”) marched from Jarrow to London, carrying a petition to the British government requesting the re-establishment of industry in the town following the closure in 1934 of its main employer, Palmer’s shipyard.
So instead of climate change protests, anti-Brexit or racism protestors, imagine Parliament Square filled by tens of thousands of protestors from all areas of the UK chanting “Gis a Job”. Imagine wall to wall TV and press coverage and the government under real pressure to stimulate the economy and create jobs.
Sadly, we need this now, but in realty will it ever happen here in the UK with a Tory elitist government who have no empathy for “the forgotten people and left behind towns”? These are words that came from our current prime minister, Eton educated Mr Johnson who talked about people and families in his acceptance speech in Downing Street in 2019 as if he understood their lives and daily challenges.
The sheer dedication, grit and energy of the miners and ship workers and their families back in 1936, who were hungry, desperate and with little hope, should inspire us all in 2020 to fight and protest for social justice, equality, jobs, and a better future for all.
The UK economy shrank by more than any other major nation during the coronavirus outbreak during the three months to June. GDP fell by 20.4% compared with the previous three months, representing the biggest such decline since comparable records began in 1955.
In reality what does this mean? Yes, a huge decline in the output of business all around the country but also hundreds of thousands of job losses. As the Furlough scheme formally ends in October many more jobs will rapidly go and predictions of many millions of unemployed will become the new normality.
Having a job means a family unit can prosper, buy food, and many of the other things we all enjoy and take for granted: like breakfast. No job means surviving on savings if you are lucky to have them, on helping hands from friends and family, and ultimately on state benefits. Additionally, ‘no job’ can lead to the loss of a home or the breakup of a family unit, to homelessness, hunger, depression and mental health issues.
In London one in fifty-two people are currently homeless. It’s a shocking number and that’s before the full effects of the recession and Covid-19 are really felt. Then there is Brexit looming at the end of the year.
In a way we are lucky in London to have the Evening Standard champion the cause of the homeless, the dispossessed, and the hungry. Over many years they have raised tens of millions for desperate Londoners, and highlighted knife-crime, inner-city gang issues and the high levels of youth unemployment.
Let’s all remember what it’s like to have breakfast, be it cornflakes and toast or a fry up. Let’s try going without breakfast for a few days and see how we feel.
We may compensate with a coffee and croissant, or biscuits at 11am, or eat more for lunch as hunger pangs set in, but imagine if you are a primary or secondary school student and this option was not available. Can you learn while hungry? Can you sleep if you are hungry?
We will never get equality in the UK if kids going to school are hungry, will we?
Enjoy your breakfast!