Report by Gamal Fahnbulleh
The number of families with children needing support from food banks is rising across the North West. The Trussell Trust says it gave out more food parcels in the region than anywhere else in 2020.
Charities are now calling on the Government to introduce a National Poverty Strategy to help reduce the number of children living in destitution - saying without support the situation will 'spiral out of control'.
In 2001, the then Labour Government pledged to eradicate child poverty by 2020, but 20 years later, predictions claim more than five million children will be living in deprivation by the end of 2021.
Four of the areas with the highest number of children living in poverty are found in the North West.
Charities across the North West say things are much worse now than they were when the government made its pledge.
More and more charities say they are having to step in to help families in need.
There are currently 105 food banks in the North West, a figure which does not include food parcels provided by schools, local authorities or other independent providers.
Data shows those who can least afford it are being hit the hardest by Covid-19 - with charities now calling for more action from the Government to stop it 'spiraling out of control'.
Graham Whitham, from Greater Manchester Poverty Action, is one of those calling for a National Poverty Strategy.
He says: "We urgently need some increases in the support people get through the Benefit System, we've got to retain the £20 Universal Credit uplift that was introduced at the start of the pandemic, but that's just the very first step.
"We need to see increases in Child Benefit and other payments that are targeted at children in families so that all children in this country can live a life that is free from poverty."
Manzoor Ali founded Barakah Food Aid 11 years ago, and says he has been told of young children licking sugar from kitchen tops to stave off hunger.
He said: "I could go on for ages, but one that springs to mind is delivering a food parcel and you check in with the kids sometimes ask how are you doing? Is everything ok?
"And she responded by saying I am really grateful that you came because she saw her younger brother licking sugar off the kitchen tops, it's stuff like that, I can't even explain.
"These people in power make out like they care about the country right now the way I look at it, they care more about money than the people."
The experience is echoed by Pastor Mick Fleming, part of Church on the Street in Burnley.
They have had to expand to a bigger location to meet the needs of the community they serve.
He said: "There are a colossal amount of families who have to choose over the month when you get to the last week or two whether to have gas and electric or whether we eat.
"Their eyes light up when they see the food parcels because it's like it has become a treat to have a tin of spam and that is what is more upsetting just to eat a meal has become a treat for some children."
According to the Food Foundation 20% of children aged 8-17 across the country have reported some form of food insecurity since Christmas.
5% (410,000) said they were hungry but did not eat because did not want to use up food in the house.
5% (360,000) said they did not eat because we did not have enough food in the house.
6% (500,000) said their parents did not eat because of not having enough food to go around.
9% (660,000) said they had to eat less and make food last longer because of lack of money.
5% (370,000) said they sometimes did not eat proper meals because of not having enough money to buy more food.
4% (320,000) said they sometimes ate at friend’s houses because we did not have enough food in the house.
The Government says it has targeted its support to families "most in need" by raising the living wage and boosting welfare support.
It added £23 million has been allocated to North West councils through the Covid Winter Grant Scheme to help pay for food and essential bills.
A spokesperson said: "We are committed to making sure every child gets the best start in life, and this is central to our steadfast determination to level up opportunity across the country.
"That's why we've targeted our support to families most in need by raising the living wage and we have boosted welfare support by billions.
"Additionally, we have launched the Covid Winter Grant Scheme to help children and families stay warm and well fed during the coldest months and £23 million has already been allocated to councils throughout the North West to help pay for food and essential bills."