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Increased food poverty needs a response

October 15, 2020 12:36 PM

kas (Thanks to Rosie Fraser for sharing their work on Unsplash.)Marcus Rashford is back in the news with an appeal to the public to back his food poverty campaign, saying that showing compassion and empathy towards the poorest children in society is part of "what it means to be British".

"Whatever your feeling, opinion or judgment, food poverty is never the child's fault," he said. "Let's protect our young. Let's wrap arms around each other and stand together to say that this is unacceptable, that we are united in protecting our children

Rashford has launched an online petition calling on the government to extend free school meals to 1.5 million more young people from struggling families. About 1.4 million children were claiming free school lunches before the pandemic, and nearly a million are estimated to have newly registered in recent weeks.

New analysis from a Food Foundation survey of more than 1,000 children suggests that nearly one in five UK children aged eight to 15 experienced food insecurity during the summer holidays.

In this context the news that Welsh Liberal Democrat Education minister Kirsty Williams announced that the Welsh Government has guaranteed free school meal provision for all school holidays up to and including Easter 2021, thanks to £11m is to be welcomed.

Liberal Democrat Education Spokesperson Daisy Cooper commented:

This decision by Liberal Democrat Kirsty Williams is wonderful news and will really ease the worries of thousands of parents in Wales as they look ahead to the uncertainty of the next six months.

It is essential that Conservative Ministers in Westminster follow the Liberal Democrats lead in Wales, and agree to extend free school meals to holidays in England. It would be simply unforgivable to let children go hungry this winter.

We know that giving school children a hot, healthy meal at lunchtime greatly improves their health, behaviour and results. What we don't know is why the Conservatives continue to callously refuse to give children who receive free school meals, the same hot, healthy meal in the school holidays.