England International Footballer, Marcus Rashford MBE, is today launching a new campaign to end child food poverty.
New data from The Food Foundation shows that more households with children (under 17) are experiencing food insecurity than in the first wave of the pandemic. Fifteen percent have experienced food insecurity in the past six months.
These levels of child food poverty are approximately 27% higher than before COVID. They are also likely to get worse with the £20 cut in Universal Credit due at end of September and because food prices are higher now than at the end of 2020.
As part of his new campaign, Mr Rashford is encouraging people across the UK to write to their MP to support the expansion of Free School Meal eligibility to all children aged 7-18 in all households earning £20,000 or less after benefits.
He also argues that Free School Meal eligibility should be expanded to children that are undocumented or living in households with the 'no recourse to public funds' (NRPF) immigration condition.
Mr Rashford is also calling for the provision of long-term funding for the Holiday Activities and Food Programme, increasing eligibility in line with Free School Meal expansion.
He also called for the expansion of Healthy Start eligibility to all households earning £20,000 or less after benefits with pregnant women or children under five. There should be more investment in a communications campaign to increase awareness and uptake of the scheme, he added.
All three of these recommendations are part of the National Food Strategy.
‘You can fill 27 Wembley stadiums with the 2.5 million children that are struggling to know where their next meal might be coming from today,’ Mr Rashford said.
‘What is it going to take for these children to be prioritised? Instead of removing support through social security, we should be focusing efforts on developing a sustainable long-term roadmap out of this child hunger pandemic.
‘I am, today, pledging my support for three recommendations from Part 2 of the National Food Strategy. I hope that we see the required investment pledged during the Autumn Spending Review. I will be writing to my MP about it, and I would encourage you all to do the same.’
Anna Taylor, executive director of Food Foundation commented: ‘It’s extremely distressing that now even more children lack a secure, nutritious diet compared with last year. Despite a sense of ‘normality’ returning, this is no time for complacency – we can’t sit back and allow this damage to our children’s health, learning and life chances, not to mention the heavy burden it bears on our NHS.
‘We know children from deprived backgrounds have higher obesity rates, worse levels of diabetes, more tooth decay and even impaired height development compared with their wealthier peers. This will only get worse if left unaddressed and entrench inequalities deeper. So, today, we are asking Government to act appropriately to protect our youngest citizens.
‘An investment in the Autumn spending review to expand eligibility for Free School Meals and Healthy Start and commit to long-term funding for the Holiday Activities and Food Programme will guarantee children at risk of hunger some good food every day.’