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UNICEF to feed children in the UK for the first time in its history

UN humanitarian agency UNICEF will provide emergency funding to help feed children and families in the UK. 

For the first time in its 70-year history, the agency will provide more than £700,000 in grants to different projects across the UK.

Director of Church Action on poverty, Niall Cooper, told Premier the UK government and communities should take this announcement as a clear warning.

"We'd normally associate UNICEF with coping with natural disasters, hurricanes, earthquakes in other parts of the world. So, the fact that they've considered it sufficiently severe here, the impact of covid on people's access to food, and particularly children's access to food, should be a wakeup call to us."

The coronavirus pandemic has pushed many people into poverty and food insecurity. Earlier this year, the Food Foundation estimated 18 per cent of 8 to 17-year-olds reported experiences of food insecurity over the summer holidays. In October, they released new figures showing that one million children had signed up for the first time to the Free School Meals government scheme. 

The agency will fund food projects in over 30 communities across the UK until February next year. London-based charity School Food Matters will receive a £25,000 grant that will help provide over £20,000 in breakfasts during the Christmas holidays. 

For Cooper, Christians have an active role to play in fighting food poverty and he wants to encourage churches to move from "crisis mood" to a more "long term community resilience" response.  

"So, things like food pantries, rather than food banks, building on the whole mutual aid. But secondly, I would love many more people in the churches to be speaking out saying: 'this is an issue of justice, people shouldn't be going hungry, we are still a wealthy country'."

"That's a role for churches, to give a platform to people to speak about things that really matter to them in their lives and bring good news to the rest of us" he continued. "And that's where we can then pray that people struggling against poverty should be enabled to lead lives with dignity and have agency and choice and be the people that helped transform our society for the good for the next few years," he concluded. 

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