Following a major public campaign, the government has announced a significant funding package to help alleviate child food poverty. The #endchildfoodpoverty campaign led by Marcus Rashford MBE shows the importance of listening to children and vulnerable families who have shared their experiences of food poverty, to increase awareness and inform government policy.
Marcus Rashford, MBE, England International Football player said: “I had a good conversation with the Prime Minister to better understand the proposed plan, and I very much welcome the steps that have been taken to combat child food poverty in the UK. There is still so much more to do, and my immediate concern is the approximate 1.7 million children who miss out on Free School Meals, holiday provision and Healthy Start vouchers because their family income isn’t quite low enough, but the intent the government have shown today is nothing but positive and they should be recognised for that.
“The steps made today will improve the lives of near 1.7 million children in the UK over the next 12 months, and that can only be celebrated. I want to take this moment to reflect on what has occurred over the last couple of weeks,” he continued. “I am so proud of ‘us’ as a collective. ‘Us’ being the local businesses, charity workers, volunteers, teachers, social workers, carers, and key workers. Together we have demonstrated the power of kindness and compassion. We have shown that when it comes down to the wire, we will always have each other.”
Anna Taylor, Executive Director of Food Foundation, said: “This is a big win for disadvantaged children. A win for all those brave parents and children who have spoken up about their experiences of food poverty. And a win for the 1.1 million individuals across the country who showed how much they cared by signing Marcus Rashford’s petition.
“[This] shows the government is serious about tackling children’s food poverty - funding programmes worth more than £400m over the next 12 months. Together this represents significant progress on two of the three calls in Marcus Rashford’s petition and the National Food Strategy Part 1.”
Rashford added: “Seeing the role everyone has played in supporting our most vulnerable children has been the greatest moment of my life. I have been overwhelmed by the outpouring of empathy and understanding. I am fully committed to this cause, and I will fight for the rest of my life for it, because in my mind, no child should ever go hungry in the United Kingdom. I don’t want any child to go through what I went through, and any parent to experience what my mother experienced.”
His crusade does not end here, though. “I now call on the government to collaborate with the Child Food Poverty Taskforce to guarantee that no child does,” he said. “As a collective we are so powerful and we all have a role to play in this, whether it be volunteering, donating, or as simple as a kind word. ‘We’ will not give up on our children. ‘We’ will not give up on the future of this country. I’m under no illusion that there is still a lot more work to be done.”
Dame Emma Thompson is a Children’s Right2Food Ambassador. She said: “This is a big step in the right direction. Huge credit should go to all those who have talked openly about their experiences of food poverty, including the young food ambassadors who have bravely told their stories. The campaign to ensure children’s right to food must continue until we #endchildfoodpoverty.”
1. Expand free school meals to all under-16s where a parent or guardian is in receipt of Universal Credit or equivalent benefit (estimated cost £670 million; 1.5 million additional children expected to benefit). Currently you can only receive free school meals if your family’s income is <£7400 per year after tax and before benefits:
There has been no progress on this to date.
2. Provide meals & activities during all holidays (estimated to cost £500million per year) for children on free school meals:
• For Christmas to Easter - welfare assitance grants for local authorities to give out to needy households for food and bills from December 1 until end March – covering the Christmas holidays - £170m; £16m for food distribution charities for Christmas.
• Easter onwards - £220m on holidays activities and food programme for easter, summer and Christmas holidays in 2021 for all local authorities in England.
• These programmes should reach all children on free school meals and the welfare assistance grants will go beyond. Current government figures are that 1.4 million children are on free school meals, but this number is expected to have risen significantly since the start of the pandemic.
3. Increase the value of Healthy Start vouchers to at least £4.25 per week and expand the scheme to reach more children:
Commitment has been made to increase the value of the voucher to £4.25 from £3.10; but there has been no commitment yet to expand the scheme to more children. Currently about 500,000 pregnant women and children under 4 in England are eligible for the scheme.
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