One Quarter of Educators in England Extend Food Aid to Hungry Students, Survey Discovers

by Ella

A recent survey has unveiled that one in four teachers in England have extended food assistance to hungry students due to concerns about their well-being. The findings highlight a growing reliance on schools to support struggling families, prompting education leaders to assert that this approach is not sustainable and underscores broader societal inequalities.

As the new school term commences, the survey garnered responses from over 9,000 teachers. Notably, 35% of participants disclosed that their schools consistently offered food to students and their families. This percentage surged to nearly half in the most economically disadvantaged regions of England.


Geoff Barton, the General Secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, emphasized that the efforts undertaken by schools, although immensely valuable, cannot be maintained indefinitely. He underscored the need for government intervention to rectify the deeply rooted disparities within society.


Conducted by the food waste charity FareShare in collaboration with the daily survey app Teacher Tapp, the survey inquired: “In the past term, how many pupils have you personally provided with food because you were worried about their welfare?”


Results showed that during the summer term, 26% of teachers personally offered food to at least one student due to concerns about their well-being. Furthermore, there was a notable disparity of nine percentage points between different areas. Specifically, 31% of educators in economically disadvantaged areas of England provided food to students, compared to 22% in more affluent regions.


Geoff Barton commented on schools’ exceptional efforts to provide food, clothing, and support to families in dire need. However, he emphasized that following a decade marked by austerity measures, a pandemic, and a cost-of-living crisis, many families are struggling to cope, leaving schools to grapple with formidable challenges.

FareShare, known for collaborating with Premier League footballer Marcus Rashford in his campaign against childhood hunger, has been confronting an escalating demand for its assistance. They point out that in the UK, a staggering 3 million tonnes of food go to waste on farms annually.

FareShare’s CEO, George Wright, expressed concern about teachers being burdened with responsibilities beyond their core role, urging urgent government intervention. Wright stated, “Our teachers should be teaching, not forced to fill the gap because the government stands by and allows this to happen all the while food goes to waste on farms. A new school term will undoubtedly bring huge demand for our services. We need to see the government act urgently and show that it takes tackling hunger seriously.”

James Bowen, the Assistant General Secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT), echoed the sentiment that educators are increasingly compelled to extend support beyond academics to address students’ basic needs. Bowen emphasized that this approach is unsustainable, especially given the financial pressures schools face.

Bowen suggested that targeted measures, such as expanding free school meal access to all households receiving universal credit, could significantly alleviate the issue. He also stressed the need for broader government support for families and efforts to address the underlying causes of child poverty.

A government spokesperson responded, noting that over a third of pupils in England currently receive free school meals, a significant increase from one in six in 2010. The government has introduced new eligibility criteria to encompass families receiving universal credit, thereby expanding access to free school meals.

Furthermore, the spokesperson emphasized the government’s provision of record financial support, averaging £3,300 per household. Other measures include raising benefits in line with inflation, increasing the National Living Wage, and extending support for essential costs such as food and energy.



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