As the global pandemic shut down our shops, workplaces and schools, the SVFS too was suspended. In a statement provided to The Guardian, a government spokesperson accredited the pausing of the programme to the prevention of food waste and the redistribution of funds to better support the ongoing pandemic. Despite schools remaining open for children of essential workers and vulnerable families, the government’s decision to halt the programme meant schools were left to self-fund and source the fruit for themselves, with many not having the funds to offer any kind of solution.
As evidenced in a report conducted by Northumbria University into how children’s diets have been affected since the Covid-19 lockdown, “half of the children surveyed (45%) said they hadn’t eaten any fruit [for three days], with the remaining children having eaten an average of half a portion a day.” For many disadvantaged families suddenly finding themselves not only homeschooling but needing to provide possibly one or two more meals a day, the lack of government provided food, and more specifically fruit and vegetables, has only gone on to increase the disparity of food poverty.
Early June saw the UK enter its ‘second phase’ of the government’s plan against the pandemic and with it restrictions on schools began to lift. Those aged four to six, plus the ten to eleven-year-olds at the other end of the schools, were given the opportunity to return to the classroom. However, the SVFS remains suspended until at least the end of the school year.
With the government ambiguous in their commitment to reinstating the programme, parents and teachers are beginning to fear that the scheme won’t return come the autumn. Spearheading the campaign that hopes this won’t be the case are Bath-based parents Hannah Cameron McKenna and Sarah Pritchard. The duo’s petition has been supported by the likes of Feeding Britain, Chefs in Schools and The Soil Association, with vegetarian chef Anna Jones also advocating for public engagement in the cause on her social media platforms.