Expand free school meals to address child food insecurity, campaigners urge

The Children’s Right2Food Campaign is calling on the government to address child food insecurity, recommending that free school meals are expanded so more children can benefit, as well as re-naming the fund ‘school meal allowance’ to remove the negative associations felt by many children.  

The campaigners argue that while the coronavirus pandemic has resulted in high levels of food insecurity, the inequality and food insecurity issues faced by children and families are not new.  

In a report published today by the Food Foundation, young campaigners call on the government to acknowledge that the Covid-19 lockdown has made existing problems with children’s food insecurity worse, and that these issues are likely to get more serious with a recession and rising unemployment on the horizon.

Dame Emma Thompson is an Ambassador for the Campaign and is supporting the young people as they call for a formal response to their campaign for a Children’s Right2Food Commission to be set up to speed up action across government, monitor and protect children’s food in the UK.  

The Young Food Ambassadors are releasing a Right2Food podcast series, with the first and second episodes out today.

The ‘A Year of Children’s Food’ report, which identifies multiple Covid-19 delays to urgently required policy change, demonstrates that increasing financial and social instability for many families will mean that further delays to policy developments could be all the more devastating for children living in poverty in the UK.

The Children’s Right2Food Charter, which was delivered to 10 Downing Street in April 2019 but which has yet to receive a formal response from the Department for Education, has been updated in light of the problems exacerbated by the Covid-19 lockdown, and provides an evidence-based road map for the government to ensure that every children has access to a healthy diet.

The key proposal put forward by the Young Food Ambassadors in their Children’s Right2Food Charter is a Children’s Right to Food Commission to monitor and improve children’s food. The Commission would be established in law, operate across all four UK nations and have young people at the heart of its leadership. Its first task would be to develop a plan to deliver the changes set out in the rest of the Charter.

The Charter also calls for plans for protecting children’s food security during future pandemics and emergencies and for holiday provision to be expanded permanently, not just during the coronavirus pandemic, to support all children who normally receive free school meals when schools are closed.

The charter also wants access to free school meals expanded so more children can benefit, and for the free school meal allowance for secondary school children to be raised from £2.70 to £4.00 so it’s enough to buy a nutritious meal. It also calls for all schools to have the facilities for children to easily drink tap water.

Another proposal is for free school meals to be renamed the ‘school meal allowance’ to destigmatise the entitlement and remove the negative associations felt by many children. 

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