An ever increasing number of children are now living in poverty as a result of the cost of living crisis, increasing energy costs, result of parents losing their jobs and DWP (Department of Work and Pensions) issues such as benefit sanctions.
As we are seeing this huge increase of people living in poverty little has been said about the effects of hunger upon children and their learning abilities.
It sounds like commonsense that childhood learning and hunger are both interconnected issues that are faced by many children in the UK. If you’re hungry it’s very hard to concentrate on anything else.
Recent studies have shown that hunger and malnourishment can have a severe impact on a child’s mental and physical development, which can ultimately affect their academic performance and life opportunities.
According to the End Child Poverty coalition, 4.2 million children in the UK are living in poverty, 2.4 million of whom are living in severe poverty. Poverty is a significant driver of hunger and food insecurity, with many families struggling to afford and find healthy and nutritious food.
Research by the Trussell Trust food bank network found that over 1.2 million emergency food supplies were given to children in the UK in 2020. This highlights the extent of hunger faced by children in the country and the need for action from the government.
The effects of hunger and malnutrition on a child’s learning can be very profound. Children who experience hunger often find it difficult to concentrate and focus, affecting their memory and cognitive abilities.
This can also lead to behavioral issues, affecting their interactions with others and their overall development.
Moreover, poor nutrition can significantly affect a child’s physical development, leading to a lack of energy, poor growth, and an increased likelihood of illness.
One recent study found that children who experienced hunger were more likely to have lower academic performance and to struggle with basic literacy and numeracy. Children who eat more healthily and more varied diets also have better cognitive abilities, and in many cases have better academic outcomes.
There is evidence, however, that basic interventions can help address these issues. Breakfast clubs at schools have been shown to improve pupils’ behaviour and academic performance. This is particularly noticeable with children that come from disadvantaged backgrounds.
Whilst charities and organizations are also working to provide food parcels and other forms of support to families and children who are struggling with hunger, the food offered to them are usually of low nutritional standards but they do quench their hunger.
Childhood hunger and malnutrition in the UK continues to have a huge impact on a child’s learning and development.
Whilst there are interventions such as breakfast clubs and food banks that can help alleviate these problems, and it is vitally important for policymakers, schools, and charities to work together to ensure that all children have access to the resources they need to thrive.
Sadly at the time of writing the government is very reluctant to help at all. Instead the cost of living crisis and rising energy costs are continuing to increase plunging more children and their families further into poverty.
Is the government doing this purposely? It certainly makes me suspect this. The health and wellbeing of working class children appears to be unimportant to them and the less they learn the better for them.