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Comment: For children and young people, Hunger is Still Here

Posted 25 October, 2021 by Lynn Gilmour

As covid restrictions have eased so, too, has public concern about food insecurity. But, as Grace, a Youth Campaigner for Magic Breakfast, explains, Hunger is Still Here

Throughout the pandemic, hunger, especially in children and young people, has been top of the public agenda. Lockdown shone a spotlight on the most poignant issues in our society, especially with Marcus Rashford’s free school meals campaign, but now, as restrictions have eased and it appears we’re moving forward after a difficult 18 months, it seems we’re forgetting that Hunger is Still Here.

The children going to school with an empty stomach every day haven’t, though. In the last few weeks, the most disadvantaged people in Scotland have faced both an end to furlough and a £20 cut to Universal Credit. This is absolutely devastating to all affected, but even more horrific for families with children. Furthermore, the Government at Westminster this week will lay out their Budget and I’m already sure it won’t go far enough. Their plan for free school breakfast already isn’t focused on reaching children most at risk of hunger.

In contrast, the Scottish Government has committed to introducing free school breakfasts in all primary and special schools in both their Programme for Government, and their COVID Recovery Strategy. This universal approach in these schools is essential to ensuring provision is stigma-free. There’s also the plan to double the Scottish Child Payment, and whilst this is the beginnings of the bold and transformative action we need to see, more can still be done. More than a quarter of children live in poverty in Scotland. Tomorrow is too late to be taking action. Yesterday would have been better. Action to resolve child hunger must be taken right now - today.

Children don’t benefit from plans or empty promises. Children know change when it’s tangible, when food is put on their plate. As a young person myself, I’m passionate about creating a world where we all get a fair start - the best way to close the attainment gap and make sure every child or young person is as successful as they can possibly be is to ensure there is equality in the classroom - of course the children who come to school hungry fall further behind than the children who are well nourished.

I think that the Scottish Government’s plans have the power to truly change lives, but we must now work on putting policy pledges into policy realities. This is the issue we cannot delay in fixing. Scotland has the chance to lead the UK in tackling hunger, if we make those plans into real measures today then other countries will follow suit after seeing the positive impact on those who need it the most. Westminster may then bring in their own action plan that will be more transformative, and actually reach those at risk

Children and young people don’t need more waiting, we need action. End child hunger today.

Grace is a Youth Campaigner for Magic Breakfast.

Magic Breakfast is asking for your support for their Hunger is Still Here campaign.

Click here to contact your MP and let them know that Hunger is Still Here.

"We're not doing well enough on mental health," First Minister tells young people from across Scotland

The First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, has told an audience of young people about ‘horrific’ comments on her social media channels, why her government is not doing well enough on mental health, that she would still ‘dingy’ Donald Trump – and why she hated her first job.

She was taking part in First Minister’s Question Time Next Generation, held in Edinburgh earlier this week and run by national charities Children in Scotland and YouthLink Scotland.

Mental health services

Mental health was again a key theme for FMQT Next Generation. Riana, aged 19 and from West Dunbartonshire, asked whether the Scottish Government would invest more money in mental health support services. Despite being through the system of CAMHS, she was not diagnosed until aged 18 by adult services. She told the First Minister that the current system had failed her.

The First Minister said that a lot of work and investment was going in to this area and there were now more counsellors in schools, but admitted that: “On mental health we still don’t do enough of that and we don’t do it well enough.”

President Trump

Co-host John Loughton reminded the First Minister of a 2016 TV interview with Gary Tank Commander actor Greg McHugh in which she said she would ‘dingy’ Donald Trump. With the UK state visit of the president planned for June, was that still the case?

“If it was me, Nicola Sturgeon, ordinary citizen, it would definitely be ‘dingy’,” she said. “As First Minister I’m not going to refuse to meet the President of United States should that arise. I wouldn’t hold back from telling him where I disagreed with him.”


Responding to questions about the protection of current EU laws post-Brexit, the First Minister hit out at hardline Brexiteers, arguing that they see advantage in reducing protections for workers and the environment. She described Jacob Rees Mogg as “coming from the 17th century” and said that some politicians in the UK are guilty of “exploiting people’s fears”.


On the subject of a second independence referendum, Nicola Sturgeon responded by saying the decision had to rest ultimately with the Scottish people, given the significant changes in circumstance since the Brexit vote:

“The future of the country should not be decided by me or Theresa May, it should be decided by the people of Scotland. If people want to accept Brexit and stay in the UK that is one thing but it should not be forced upon us, we should have the ability to choose.”

Personal questions

The First Minister revealed that she sleeps five hours a night. She also talked about her first job selling tattie scones around doors in Dreghorn, which she hated so much that she used to get her dad to do it instead.

And, giving an insight into what she does to relax, she said she likes to “switch on, to switch off” by watching Coronation Street.

Social media

On negative and bullying behaviour on social media, the First Minister said she tries not to look at the “tickertape” of negative comments on her Twitter.

“If I was going to go and search my name on Twitter it would probably be pretty horrific what came up.”

She told the audience that we all have a responsibility to stand up against bullying online and accused those companies who make millions from running social media platforms of not taking their responsibilities as seriously as they should.

Responding to a question about advice she would give to young people feeling pressurised by social media, she said she that as a young person at school she was very shy and didn’t have a lot of confidence.

She gave this advice to the young people in the audience: “Be yourself and believe in yourself, and don’t let people bring you down.”

Trans rights

Ethan, aged 20 from LGBT Youth Scotland, pressed the First Minister on the current timetable for amending the Gender Recognition Act (GRA), which would allow transgender people to self-declare their gender, instead of going through the process of medical approval and certification.

There have been concerns about whether the changes will be made by 2021. Ethan asked, on behalf of trans young people in Scotland, for her guarantee that the law would change.

The First Minister reiterated her support for trans rights and said the legislation was on track to be amended by 2021. She said she understood that people may be frustrated but that it was better for it to take longer and “get it right”.

Addressing the controversy around changes to the GRA, the FM said she was disappointed the debate had become so polarised. It was her job to find a way through by making sure all sides were heard, she added.

She also highlighted the depth of transphobia in Scotland. Questioned on press reports of splits in her cabinet about the issue, she said: “That’s part of leadership – you deal with divided opinion."

Speaking after the recording, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said:

“The decisions taken by government and other policy makers will have a profound impact on the lives of today’s young people and those in the future. That’s why it is vital that their voices are heard and their views listened to.

“It’s important that we empower children and young people to have their say on the issues that they face – the FMQT event is a great way to do that and I was delighted to have the opportunity to be involved for a second time.”

Jackie Brock, Chief Executive of Children in Scotland, said:

“This second event proves why FMQT Next Generation is quickly becoming a fixture of political debate in Scotland, and we are particularly grateful to the young people on the project Design Team for how they have led and shaped it.”

“It again made clear that young people’s insights are invaluable as we celebrate their contribution to our national life and discuss the improvements we must make for them. The challenge for the Scottish Government now is to keep listening to them in a meaningful way and take forward the vital issues they are raising through the project.”

Tim Frew, Chief Executive of YouthLink Scotland commented:

“Brexit, mental health, the cost of transport, free school meals, these are just some of the issues that directly affect young people. It’s important that we take the right of children to be heard, seriously.

“FMQT Next Generation is a national platform where young people can give their views and concerns directly to Scotland’s most powerful politician. As part of the legacy of Year of Young People we want to ensure that youth participation at both national and local level is embedded into the decision process for government, parliament and councils.”

Zander, a member of the young people’s Design Team, who shaped FMQT Next Generation, explained why he wanted to be involved in creating a platform for children’s views to be heard:

“Because I was worried about all the big decisions that are being made without asking kids what they will want in the future.”

FMQT Next Generation aims to empower children and young people to take part in political debate and provide a genuine opportunity for them to hold adult decision-makers, including the First Minister, to account.

It was the second FMQT Next Generation following its successful the launch last September as a new platform for 8-to-26 year olds.

The project, funded by the Scottish Government, builds on the participation work of YouthLink Scotland and Children in Scotland, with the aim of putting children and young people at the heart of policymaking and decisions affecting them nationally and locally.


Media contacts:

Sarah Paterson, YouthLink Scotland, or
Chris Small, Children in Scotland,

Notes to editors

If you would like to find out more about the project visit:

click here to visit YouthLink Scotland or click here to visit Children in Scotland


Click here to see the playlist on YouTube

Educational Resource:

Click here to download YouthLink Scotland's resource

More information:

Take a look at a range of different blogs that have been written in the run-up to the first FMQT Next Generation:

Sally Henry, a member of the Online Design Team has written a blog about her experience of being involved in the project. Click here to hear her story so far.

Click here to learn more about the design team and how they've been involved in Emma's blog, or click here to hear from Tamsin, a member of the online design team, as she shares her experience of why she wanted to be involved in #FMQTNextGeneration.

Click here to view the #FMQTNextGeneration videos on YouTube and hear from young people why they wanted to get involved!

Children in Scotland

Giving all children in Scotland an equal chance to flourish is at the heart of everything we do.

By bringing together a network of people working with and for children, alongside children and young people themselves, we offer a broad, balanced and independent voice. We create solutions, provide support and develop positive change across all areas affecting children in Scotland.

We do this by listening, gathering evidence, and applying and sharing our learning, while always working to uphold children’s rights. Our range of knowledge and expertise means we can provide trusted support on issues as diverse as the people we work with and the varied lives of children and families in Scotland.

YouthLink Scotland

The national agency for youth work. It is the voice of the youth work sector in Scotland.

  • It is a membership organisation and is in the unique position of representing the interests and aspirations of the whole of the sector both voluntary and statutory.
  • YouthLink Scotland champions the role and value of the youth work sector, challenging government at national and local levels to invest in the development of the sector.
  • YouthLink Scotland represents over 100 organisations, including the 32 Local Authority Youth Work Services and all major national voluntary youth work organisations, which support over 300,000 young people in achieving their potential.
  • YouthLink Scotland promotes a positive image of Scotland’s young people and seeks to promote their value to communities and society.

Watch FMQT Next Generation

View the programme, which was co-hosted by Razannah Hussain and John Loughton

Click to visit our YouTube

Young people speaking truth to power

Find out more about our project giving children the chance to hold political leaders to account

Click here to read more

Meet the FMQT Design Team

Watch a film from the launch of FMQT last year and meet the young people behind it

Click here to watch the film

Blog: Why I added my voice to the project

FMQT Online Design Team member Sally Henry, aged 16, on why she wanted to take part

Click here to read the blog

20,000+ summer club places for children and families as food project expands

From today (Monday 2 July 2018) children across Scotland will again be participating in Children in Scotland’s award-winning food partnership programme, Food, Families, Futures (FFF).

Now in its third year, FFF is run in partnership with food distribution company Brakes’ Meals & More programme, offering children and families the opportunity to enjoy meals and fun activities in schools over the summer holidays.

Across the participating areas, there will be a total of 20,300 places available during July and August – a significant increase on the 4,000 places offered in the summer of 2017.

The programme has expanded from two local authority areas in 2017 (Glasgow and West Dunbartonshire) to four and this year will cover schools in Glasgow, West Dunbartonshire, Perth and Kinross and East Lothian.

Jackie Bock, Chief Executive of Children in Scotland, said:

“We are incredibly proud to see the expansion of the Food, Families, Futures partnership. We know the summer holidays can be a time of pressure for many families, but FFF highlights the strengths in our communities and our ability to collaborate, offer support and solve problems together.

“Thanks to Meals & More and the local councils involved this year, FFF is opening up schools so that even more families can access quality food and fantastic activities during the long summer break.”

Pem Hulusi, Programme Manager for Brakes’ Meals & More programme added:

“With Children in Scotland, we’re delighted to be supporting the FFF clubs in their third year. The great work in Scotland represents our wider commitment to retaining and strengthening all our Meals & More partnerships across the UK.

“Our long-term ambition is to increase the capacity within these clubs to reach more children, support families and communities in need, and continue the fight against child poverty.”

The Food, Families, Futures programme was launched by Children in Scotland in 2015, with the aim of contributing to tackling food poverty and its link to children’s health, wellbeing and education.

Aware of the pressures on families, particularly those on low income and in areas experiencing high levels of child poverty, FFF turns schools into community hubs during the summer months.

Parents are guided on how to prepare fresh, healthy meals under the direction of qualified community chefs, while children enjoy activities ranging from sport and play to arts and crafts. Families have the opportunity to cook and eat together as part of the experience.

Sessions range from part-day to full day, with clubs running from between five and 25 days over the summer holiday period.

Participating schools and catchment areas for summer 2018 are as follows:

  • Glasgow: Ibrox, Dalmarnock, High Park and Easterhouse
  • West Dunbartonshire: Dumbarton High School, Clydebank High School, Vale of Leven High School
  • Perth and Kinross: Letham Primary School, Alyth Primary School
  • East Lothian: Fa’side Lunch Club (Tranent), PSH Lunch Club (Prestonpans).

More information on local partnerships and the sessions being delivered in each area is available on request.

Partnership activities across the summer form part of Children in Scotland’s wider FFF programme of work.

For more information, including a summary of activity in 2017, a helpful Handbook and a short film, visit:


Media contacts: 

Chris Small, Communications and Marketing Manager, Children in Scotland – / 0131 313 8824

Jennifer Drummond, Communications Officer, Children in Scotland – / 0131 313 8823

Notes for Editors

  • Food, Families, Futures was awarded the Third Sector Partnership Award at the Scottish Public Service Awards 2017 and the Herald Society’s Partnership Award.
  • Food, Families, Futures is a partnership between Brakes’ Meals & More programme, Children in Scotland, local authorities and local organisations and community groups in participating authorities.
  • Read more about Brakes’ Meals & More programme here.
  • About Children in Scotland:

Giving all children in Scotland an equal chance to flourish is at the heart of everything we do.

By bringing together a network of people working with and for children, alongside children and young people themselves, we offer a broad, balanced and independent voice. We create solutions, provide support and develop positive change across all areas affecting children in Scotland.

We do this by listening, gathering evidence, and applying and sharing our learning, while always working to uphold children’s rights. Our range of knowledge and expertise means we can provide trusted support on issues as diverse as the people we work with and the varied lives of children and families in Scotland.


Food, Families, Futures - aims and achievements

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Read more

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