Sunday, November 27, 2022

Children will starve to death this winter unless government expands free school meals, charities warn

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The Feed the Future campaign, supported by groups like Child Poverty Action Group, says up to 800,000 children living in poverty could be ineligible for the program and starving

Thousands of children will starve to death this winter if the government doesn’t raise the eligibility threshold for free school meals, charities warn.

The Feed the Future campaign, which is supported by organizations including the Child Poverty Action Group, said up to 800,000 children living in poverty are not entitled to free school meals and could be starving in the coming months.

Around 1.9 million children in England are currently entitled to free school meals, including all pupils from intake through second grade. In addition, only children whose parents earn less than £7,400 a year are eligible.

Anna Taylor, executive director of the Food Foundation, said I The government would “endow thousands more children with a very difficult start in life” if it doesn’t expand the program to give more children free school meals during the cost-of-living crisis.

She said nutritious school meals should be a “core goal” for Liz Truss, and warned that starving children has “lifelong implications.”

Christina Adane, an activist with children’s charity Bite Back 2030, said it is “no exaggeration that children will starve to death this winter” without government intervention.

“To me, it’s absolutely insane that free school meals — the absolute most basic human right — isn’t being provided to kids who need it,” she said I.

“We’ve heard some really heartbreaking stories about kids who aren’t doing well in school because they’re starving. You can’t concentrate.

“There are so many things families have to contend with this winter, the only thing not to worry about is whether or not their child will eat.”

Ms Adane said the government’s failure to extend free school meals to more children goes against the Prime Minister’s emphasis on “grow, grow, grow” and could prevent hundreds of thousands more children from entering the labor market.

“How is [Ms Truss] to talk about people being economically active when they are literally starving? How on earth is this generation becoming economically active and productive citizens?

“[Ms Truss] has put so many things to the test, including the sugar tax and the junk food advertising ban, the least they owe us is food.”

Research released on Tuesday suggests the expansion of the free school meals scheme will generate billions for the UK economy over the next two decades.

PwC analysis, commissioned by Impact on Urban Health, showed that the cost of providing free school meals to all children in poverty in England would be an additional £477m in the first year and then drop to £210m over the next 20 years .

The total cost of £6.4bn over two decades would result in benefits of £8.9bn – resulting in a net gain of £2.4bn.

Calls for an expansion of the free school meals scheme received their latest celebrity endorsement today after Jamie Oliver said all children in universal credit households should be eligible.

Mr Oliver, who supports the Feed the Future campaign, told BBC Radio 4 today Scheme: “If you earn over £7,400 you won’t get that free school lunch, but I think we can all agree that there is a big gap between the free school lunch means test and universal credit.”

Wales started offering universal free school meals to young pupils earlier this month as part of a phased roll-out for all primary school children by 2024.

In response to Mr Oliver’s comments, Health Minister Thérèse Coffey said it was important that support for struggling families was “targeted”.

She said if all children from Universal Credit families were allowed to get free school meals, “taxpayers might be surprised to learn that someone with £35,000 or £40,000 would suddenly be eligible”.

A government spokesman said the Feed the Future campaign had underestimated the cost of expanding the program and the government had already expanded access to free school meals more than at any time in decades.

Manchester United footballer Marcus Rashford had successfully pressured the government to provide free school meal vouchers to about 1.3million children over the summer holidays during the pandemic.

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