Food is not a luxury item – Tulip Siddiq on free school meal vouchers

Labour has today called on the government to take urgent action as new figures from the Independent Food Aid Network (IFAN) reveal the shocking impact of the coronavirus crisis on food poverty.

Its findings show that the number of food parcels issued across 147 of its foodbanks increased by an average of almost 60% between 20 February and 20 March1. A report from the Food Foundation published in early April revealed that 1.5 million people had gone a whole day without eating since the start of the lockdown.2

Teachers and parents have also highlighted major problems with the free school meals voucher programme.

Delays to releasing the vouchers have forced some schools to fund eligible families themselves, while the list of supermarkets accepting the vouchers omits local convenience stores and the Co-op3, more likely to be relied on by poorer families.

Tulip Siddiq MP, Labour’s Shadow Minister for Children and Early Years, commenting on the free school meal voucher scheme, said:

“Free school meals are not something that children can afford to wait a few weeks for. The school meal is often the only proper meal a child has all day.

“It is not a luxury item, it’s a necessity for the millions of children who are living in poverty in this country.

“It is therefore extremely concerning that parents are being made to wait many weeks to receive their free school meal vouchers. The voucher scheme has been beset by problems and delays that are driving families into food poverty, and it is still not working properly.

“The Government needs to fix problems with the vouchers and give schools more support to ensure that children are not left hungry.”

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