politics

Free school meals: ‘Access to food is becoming a postcode lottery’ says MP


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London MP has warned that children’s access to food is becoming a “postcode lottery” as Marcus Rashford launched his latest drive to overhaul the government’s free school meals policy.

Celebrity chefs Jamie Oliver, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and Tom Kerridge have joined forces with the football star by writing to Boris Johnson asking him to “fix” the system.  

It comes after a scandal over photographs shared by parents of meagre food parcels handed out for hungry children and amid a growing row over provision for the February half term.  

The government has said food will be provided to children by councils under the Covid Winter Grant Scheme while schools are closed for the holiday.

However, the Local Government Association says that grant had already been allocated for other support.

Tulip Siddiq MP, Labour’s Shadow Minister for Children and Early Years, said: “Children are going hungry on an unprecedented scale, and it’s not semantics to point out that the Government’s winter grant does not guarantee free school meals to children over half term.  

“We cannot risk children’s access to food becoming a postcode lottery, which would mean many struggling families missing out.

“More than 200,000 children were forced to skip meals at the height of the first lockdown. We could see this tragedy repeated if Ministers refuse to keep free school meal support in place over half term.”

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “We are down to semantics whether it is the school delivering the meal or whether it is the local authority – fortunately there is quite a lot of different support available.”

A Government spokesperson said: “As was the case over Christmas, vulnerable families will continue to receive meals and other essentials over February half term via councils through the £170 million Covid Winter Grant Scheme launched last year.”



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