KIDS won’t get free school meals over the half-term break and Christmas holidays, Downing Street said today.
No10 has ignored Marcus Rashford’s plea to extend the scheme which helped 1.5 million poor kids stay well fed during lockdown.
During lockdown, the England star put massive pressure on Boris Johnson to help kids entitled to free school meals get vouchers worth £15 every week of half-term and the summer holidays.
And Mr Rashford has been behind a fresh push to extend the vouchers for hungry kids during the October half-term and the Christmas holiday.
But a Downing Street spokesperson said today: “We are in a different position now.
“It’s not for schools to regularly provide food to pupils during the school holidays.”
Mr Rashford slammed Downing Street’s rejection on Twitter: “Merry Christmas kids…
“It’s also not for food banks to feed millions of British children but here we are. 250% increase in food poverty and rising…
“This is not going away anytime soon and neither am I…”
Senior Tory MP and Chairman of the Education Select Committee Robert Halfon said Mr Johnson and the Department for Education need to urgently reconsider the policy, warning soaring unemployment rates will leave kids hungry.
He told HOAR: “I would urge the Prime Minister and the Department for Education to reconsider this.
“We know that the Office for Budget Responsible have forecast over 13 per cent rise in unemployment, making 336,500 more working adults food insecure.
“The Government are doing some good things, but there needs to be a long term plan for combatting child hunger, starting with free school meal vouchers during half-term and Christmas.
He added: “If the bean counters at the Department for Education are worried about finances – if you feed children properly, you increase education and life outcomes.
“The Government ends up saving a lot of money when they don’t have to make other significant interventions.”
And Mr Rashford heaped fresh pressure on Mr Johnson this morning by launching an official Commons petition for his plan to have free school meals extended to any household that claims benefits – reaching an extra 1.5 million under 16s.
It needs 100,000 signatures to spark a debate by MPs, with the campaigning striker urging all Brits to sign up as “whatever your feeling, opinion, or judgement, food poverty is never the child’s fault.”
The petition comes just days after the millionaire Man Utd forward was given an MBE by the PM for his work tackling child food poverty.
In England there are more than 1.5 million children who can for free school meals – making up about 15 per cent of state school kids.
But Mr Rashford says that should be doubled.
And he wants the scheme extended to cover the October half term holidays in the short run, but is leading a longer campaign to eradicate child hunger for good.
His End Child Food Poverty movement has been backed by dozens of food firms, charities and celebs.
CHILD POVERTY MISSION
Last night he said: “In 2020, no child in the UK should be going to bed hungry, nor should they be sat in classrooms concerned about how their younger siblings are going to eat that day, or how they are going to access food come the holidays.”
“Right now, a generation who have already been penalised during this pandemic with lack of access to educational resources are now back in school struggling to concentrate due to worry and the sound of their rumbling stomachs.”
He added: “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.
“Today, millions of children are finding themselves in the most vulnerable of environments and are beginning to question what it really means to be British. I’m calling on you all today to help me prove to them that being British is something to be proud of.”
And actress Dame Emma Thompson backed his campaign saying: “There is absolutely no need for any child to go hungry in the UK. The fact that they are and in increasing numbers suggests cracks in a broken food system that can and must be repaired as a matter of the utmost urgency. Apart from the moral duty we owe to children, this is a severe public health problem.”
Readers can sign the petition here.
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