Boris Johnson: Child hunger does not stop for the holidays - extend Free School Meals!

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The Government’s belated u-turn and decision to provide Free School Meal vouchers over the Summer holidays was welcome. However, it simply makes no sense to now withdraw that support.

Earlier this week, the Prime Minister announced tougher restrictions which could last for six months, and, despite the Chancellor’s new measures, millions of people could still lose their job or see their income drop dramatically. Things are set to get tougher for families already struggling, not easier.

We also know that, because of a lack of clear guidance from the Government, pupils who have to self-isolate may be going hungry because they aren’t receiving their Free School Meals. The Government needs to step up and guarantee Free School Meals for self-isolating pupils - we cannot allow even more children to go hungry as a result of this terrible pandemic.

It is now estimated that 1.7 million children in the UK, in addition to 4.9 million adults, are suffering from food insecurity, a 250% rise from pre-Covid-19 levels. The Trussell Trust reported that it gave out 89% more food parcels in April and have warned that extreme poverty could double by Christmas.

The Government’s holiday activities and food programme does not offer a universal service and instead introduces a postcode lottery. The programme only benefits a handful of areas - we need a system that ensures that every single child in our country has enough to eat.

This pandemic has devastated the lives and livelihoods of so many people. Many families have lost all or some of their income. Businesses which have taken years of hard-work to build up have had to close overnight. The tragic result of this will be more children living in poverty and more children not having enough to eat. This is true irrespective of whether it is term time or during the school holidays.

We are urging the government to extend the Free School Meal voucher scheme over the Autumn half-term and the Christmas holidays; look to embed the scheme on a permanent basis all year round, guarantee Free School Meals for self-isolating pupils; and to ensure support for children and families is not dependent on their postcode.

Child hunger does not stop for the school holidays.