Children's Commissioner for England moved by public response to free school meals scandal and urges government to rethink Commons vote
The Children's Commissioner for England said the issue of free school meals to cover holidays shouldn't even be up for debate as she praised footballers and local communities for stepping in.
Anne Longfield told the Yorkshire Evening Post the government should think again over the parliamentary meeting on Wednesday where MPs voted against extending free school dinners throughout half term and Christmas holidays.
She said the moves made by footballers such as Leeds United players, and the club itself which between them have donated £50,000 to support struggling families in the city, and Marcus Rashford who kick-started a campaign in the summer to provide school meals over the holidays has shone a spotlight on the scandal of food poverty.
She said: "Marcus Rashford has done an inspiring job shining a spotlight on the scandal of food poverty in this country. His campaign to extend free school meals to cover the school holidays should not even be up for debate during a pandemic.
“I have been really moved by the response particularly from small business owners offering food to struggling families too. It shows just how much good will there is out there to tackle this problem. Despite being a prosperous country, we have a growing problem of child poverty. The Government was generous earlier this year when it introduced the furlough scheme, and when it extended free school meals to cover the summer holidays. We need more of that generosity for as long as the pandemic continues.
“Any Government, whoever is in power, should have a joined-up, overarching covid recovery package that includes support for families and keeps the £20 a week uplift in Universal Credit, as well as providing free school meals for a larger group of children during term time and the holidays. This is about making sure vulnerable kids from the poorest families have at least one hot meal a day. Free school meals make a huge difference and are a lifeline for many families.
“No child in this well-off country of ours should be going hungry. The Government should think again and provide free school meals to children who need them over the school holidays for as long as we are in the middle of a pandemic.”
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