We can't let food poverty u-turn become another sticking plaster - Laura Collins, YEP Editor

The Government has set out plans to support vulnerable children during the holidays – but more needs to be done to tackle this once and for all

Monday, 9th November 2020, 6:00 am
And as a starting point we need to put our opinions to one side and remember children are the innocent voices within all of this. Picture: Shutterstock

It is a victory for kindness, compassion and the moral duty to simply do the right thing.

England footballer Marcus Rashford has netted a victory after the Government U-turned over providing free meals to disadvantaged children during the Christmas holidays.

The Prime Minister personally phoned the Manchester United star on Saturday to alert him to the decision to lay on £170 million of extra funding for the measure.

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The money will pay for the Covid Winter Grant Scheme to support families over the season while the Holiday Activities and Food programme will be extended to cover the Easter, summer and Christmas breaks in 2021, the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) announced.

And the key to this u-turn is the outpouring of empathy and compassion as cities, like Leeds, joined together to support those children who were going to struggle over the half term holiday.

It was no surprise that our city reacted in the way it did – after all it takes pride in the fact that it is child friendly.

Businesses and organisations threw their doors open to offer hot meals to those youngsters who would have gone without.

But it remains a stark reminder that almost 33,000 children are living on the breadline in our city. And we can’t let them become just another statistic.

They are our city’s future –they are the generation that will continue to pick up the pieces that will still be so sorely felt in the years to come following this crisis.

Food poverty is something that has drawn fierce criticism as people look to point the finger.

The next goal is how do we get a grip on this issue once and for all? And the starting point is to tackle the stigma that surrounds food poverty.

Just take a moment to think about what happens when hardworking parents, who are just about managing to walk a financial tightrope, fall on hardship?

We’ve seen all too well the impact of Covid-19 has had on our lives and livelihoods – this is an issue that isn’t going to go away anytime soon.

Businesses have been forced to place workers on furlough as they close their doors again for a second time during a national lockdown.

Meanwhile, others have struggled to bolster their battered finances this year and have had to close their doors entirely leaving those who relied on them to pay for their rent, bills and food out of employment. It’s a worrying sign of things to come as businesses are rightly concerned about whether they are going to survive beyond Christmas.

So, while the additional funding for free meals to disadvantaged children during the Christmas holidays and into 2021 is welcome, we need to make sure this is not just another sticking plaster.

The Government needs to continue its discussions with experts and campaigners to look at how we can tackle this issue once and for all.

And as a starting point we need to put our opinions to one side and remember children are the innocent voices within all of this.

That is why we need to continue supporting those whose little voices can’t be heard. They need us.

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