We have a moral obligation to support the next generation, the mishandling of the Covid crisis has meant that the next generation risk becoming a ‘lost generation’.Kate Osborne MP
No-one wants to see children going hungry – the tackling of the growing problem of child food insecurity must be a priority for the Government writes Kate Osborne MP
While the virus itself has mostly spared young children, the economic crisis has not, and further action is needed to make sure that all children are getting a sufficient and healthy diet.
Growing up in a single parent household, receiving free school meals, and with a young son who was on Free School Meals before my election to Parliament, I understand the importance and necessity of free school meals, when for some it may often be the only hot meal received on a cold winters day, cannot be underestimated.
Research from the Child Poverty Commission shows that Almost 93,000 children and young people across the North East, including 5,617 in South Tyneside and 6,135 in Gateshead, were in receipt of free school meals in the last academic year.
The research also shows that Children and young people in the North East are at higher risk of food insecurity or ‘holiday hunger’ during the school holidays than elsewhere. The North East has the highest proportion of pupils in receipt of free school meals, 6% percent higher in comparison to the rest of England.
It is important to note that only children from very low-income households are eligible for Free School Meals, therefore the children of many Universal Credit claimants do not qualify. This is despite many of them falling well below the Government’s poverty threshold – 72% of the 4.2 million children in poverty are in working families.
This means that the offer of Free School Meals must be extended to all families receiving Universal Credit.
We have a moral obligation to support the next generation, the mishandling of the Covid crisis has meant that the next generation risk becoming a ‘lost generation’.
Every parent simply wants to be able to feed their child; the Government have the power to make this a reality.
The Indian economist, Amartya Sen, was correct when he highlighted in his theory that hunger and starvation result from some people not having access to enough food – what he called entitlement – not because there is not enough food available in the country or region.
Sen won the Nobel Prize in 1998 for his ground-breaking theory and his theory is being echoed in the debate on Free School Meals today, because history has shown us that hunger and even famine are a result of political choice. Hunger within a nation can be prevented if there is a serious effort to do so.
If we can give £12 billion for a private track and trace system that has turned out to be an embarrassment, where the only winner has been the pockets of Dido Harding & her Tory mates, how can the Chancellor say we cannot fund the feeding of our children? Where’s the sense in that?
How can those in Government sleep at night knowing there are children going hungry in the UK?
Poverty is a spiral and intervention is needed to break it, if the Government ignore this fact, they will doom a generation to life of hardship, poverty and hunger.
The Government must listen to the opposition’ calls to continue to fund Free School Meal provision in every school holiday between now and Easter 2021.
I’ll finish with the words of the Manchester United number 10: “food stability is the foundation of everything. Please, give our children a chance. Let’s level up once and for all”.
- Kate Osborne is one of a number of Socialist Campaign Group Labour MPs to have a regular Labour Outlook column alongside Apsana Begum, Richard Burgon, John McDonnell and Jon Trickett.