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At present, broadly only children from households earning less than £7,400 before benefits are eligible for free school meals. The Children’s Society fear that this threshold means many low-income families who miss out are struggling.
The news comes as the campaign launched by Footballer, Marcus Rashford for free school meals continues across the UK after conservatives voted against the idea in the House of Commons. Over 350,000 people have now signed the following petition.
If you can do one thing for me tonight, sign the petition ??https://t.co/FvvpO71zOv
It’s time we put party politics aside and worked together to find a long-term sustainable solution to child food poverty in the UK.
Implement the 3 asks.
I appreciate you all ♥️
— Marcus Rashford MBE (@MarcusRashford) October 20, 2020
The Children’s Society polled 1,002 parents of state school children aged 5-16 in the UK in September.
Seven out of 10 parents (711) surveyed said that their oldest child did not receive free school meals.
These parents were estimated to spend an average of £21.54 on breakfast, lunch and snacks for their eldest child at school over a week.
One in seven of these respondents said they have been struggling with the cost of food during the school day since their child has returned to school following Covid-related closures.
7 amazing projects helping Liverpool children in food crisis during school holidays.
— The Guide Liverpool (@TheGuideLpool) October 22, 2020
If these figures are extrapolated to reflect the UK population, the Children’s Society estimates, it could mean 885,000 children are living in families who are struggling.
40% of respondents said they had cut down on food they bought for themselves in order to pay for school meals, while a fifth had borrowed money from friends and family.
17% said they had delayed making gas and electricity payments, while 5% said they had used a foodbank and 5% said they had borrowed from a commercial lender.
Overall, one in six parents said they were worried or very worried about covering the cost of meals and snacks for their children throughout the school year.
“No one likes the idea of a child going hungry, but we know that right now there are children across the country who are. We also know that the pandemic has only made the situation worse.
“The current threshold for free school meals is too low, it leaves many hard-working families, who earn just slightly above the cut off, but often still living in poverty, having to find the money to cover their child’s food during the school day.
Liverpool baker, Laura Worthington was one of many who shared their stories on social media yesterday. Laura who owns Laura’s Little Bakery will be donating a children’s birthday cake each week to a family who can’t afford it.
A little story…..months after this picture was taken my dad died…and to cut a very horrible long story short, me and my siblings experience long periods of food poverty in our childhood and it really was a horrible & depressing way to live! pic.twitter.com/drXpmJkool
— Lauras Little Bakery (@LaurasBakery) October 22, 2020
The Children’s Society is calling for free school meals to be extended to all children whose families receive universal credit, and for the temporary extension to children in families with no recourse to public funds to be made permanent.
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