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News | Published August 13 2019

Mayor of Liverpool: Holiday hunger is a morality issue

In the third instalment of our series focusing on the issue of holiday hunger, we spoke to Joe Anderson, the Mayor of Liverpool, about his efforts to tackle the issue in his city. 

Families in Liverpool, along with many across the country, have been hit hard over the last few years as a result of austerity and welfare reforms.

Many are teetering on the edge of crisis, often not knowing how they are going to be able to pay for their next meal. This is the reality of life for some people, many of them working families, who are living on the breadline.

Free school meals during term time are a lifeline for many, meaning that during the six-week summer break many children face going without because their parents simply can’t afford to buy food.

For me, feeding hungry children is a morality issue - you either do it or you don’t. Here in Liverpool we have been clear that we will. This is why we have always provided meals during holidays, spending a quarter of a million pounds, but this year we have vastly increased the number and quality of meals available because of growing demand.

For me, feeding hungry children is a morality issue - you either do it or you don’t.

Despite the fact my council has lost around two-thirds of its funding in the last decade – we now have £444 million less to spend each year – no other city is doing more to help vulnerable families, for example by subsidising rents and providing crisis payments to the tune of many millions of pounds every year.

The government has created a lottery for councils, by creating a relatively small pot of money for holiday meal programmes and making us bid against each other for funding. 

It would have been immoral for us to stand idly by, so I set aside £50,000 from my Mayoral charity for a summer lunch scheme to make sure children in our city are not only fed, but fed well. The food we create and provide is nutritionally balanced - it arrives fresh each day.

The government has created a lottery for councils, by creating a relatively small pot of money for holiday meal programmes and making us bid against each other for funding.

It takes the stress away from play schemes and families so that they can concentrate on creating memories with their children this summer.

The two organisations and volunteers we are working with create up to 1,000 meals a day, and our own staff are mucking in to help prepare the food.

No child should be denied the chance to have a great time over the summer, based on where they are from or their parent’s ability to pay for it. 

 We see it as an investment – because in September they will go back to school healthy, happy and ready to learn, rather than malnourished.

Let’s be clear: our funding mainly comes from two places – local people and national government. So when the government decides to stop, restrict, or gamble with funding then we have to pay locally, and make hard choices about what to pay for. 

So when the government decides to stop, restrict, or gamble with funding then we have to pay locally, and make hard choices about what to pay for. 

The cost of running street lights, libraries, disability support and summer lunches all come from the same funding pot. That’s the impossible and heart-breaking conundrum that austerity has created for local authority leaders.

My message to ministers in Westminster is to pause and reflect on the misery and anguish that welfare reforms are causing for families, and think again about their policies.  


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Authored by

Joe Anderson
Mayor of Liverpool
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August 13 2019

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