Today Labour has called a debate in Parliament calling on the government to fund Free School Meals in every school holiday between now and Easter next year to ensure that no child goes hungry during the coronavirus pandemic.
I will be voting in support of this tonight. This would support over 1.4 million children who benefit from this support, and help families make ends meet in extremely difficult circumstance. Including over 4,200 children in Feltham and Heston alone. And we know that over 40% of children in Hounslow are now growing up in poverty.
Holiday hunger is, unfortunately, all too common, with academic research showcasing the negative consequences for a children’s learning. This was an issue prior to COVID-19, with a survey of headteachers revealing that more than four in five have seen a rise in pupils coming to school hungry in the last five years. Figures now, however, show that 61% of the over 1.4 million children eligible for free school meals are living in areas subject to the increased restrictions, which will only make matters worse.
I want to thank everyone in Feltham and Heston, and across the country who have backed this campaign – and to Marcus Rashford, whose petition has now reached over 300,000 signatures, as well as the Trussell Trust, which supports foodbanks across the country, the End Child Poverty, who campaign for ending child poverty, and the Co-operative party, who have campaigned to stop children going hungry over half term.
Making sure school children have food to eat during the school holidays as they also catch up on learning, and even more so during the pandemic which has seen the lives of children and their education so disrupted.
This shouldn’t even need a vote in Parliament.
It is so obviously the right thing to do, and I would urge Conservative Members of Parliament to join other parties to support this motion in Parliament tonight.