The Government must reverse the decision taken in the House of Commons last week not to provide free school meals over the holidays. Government cannot ignore the public outcry generated by this callous decision. They must ensure no child goes without food.
Full text of letter below:
We write to you today because we believe action to counter food insecurity for children is urgent and can't wait. We urge you to look again at the issue of free meals for school holidays in England and to confirm FSMs for the Christmas holidays, as in Wales and Scotland.
Many more families are facing food insecurity because of Coronavirus - and many families receiving Universal Credit are living in poverty. There has been an extraordinary community response this half term week, and widespread support for Marcus Rashford's proposals, showing that the public supports investment in children to banish hunger. However, there still remains in place a postcode lottery for the more than 1 million children facing food insecurity; many will come back to school hungry, malnourished and anxious. The Government has pledged to ensure that students from disadvantaged backgrounds aren't left behind - but a lack of regular, dependable nutritious meals has a huge impact on learning, self-confidence and students’ engagement with school. It locks poor children out of opportunities.
At the moment, staff in schools and colleges are working as hard as they can - but they're really worried about what they see unfolding in front of them. NEU members are witnessing the negative impacts of hunger and malnutrition: if a child hasn’t eaten, they cannot concentrate, learn or fulfil their potential. This connects very directly to whether children and teenagers learn well.
During the pandemic, schools are working closely with their local communities to reach out to all families who need extra support. But the right national policies must be put in place.
We urge you to commit to tackling holiday hunger by providing Free School Meals during school holidays to all children whose families are eligible for Universal Credit.
With best wishes
Mary Bousted and Kevin Courtney
Joint general secretaries