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Why Children Need Free School Meals Now More Than Ever

The government’s decision not to extend free school meals to half term has generated much controversy, Marcus Rashford of Manchester United Football club being a prominent figure to speak up about their importance.

Encouraging people to work whilst having a vital safety net for those who need it characterises my general political stance. However, in these economically tumultuous times, even the most hard-working who aim to give their children the best possible quality of life are being hit hard by unemployment attributed to the pandemic, with some facing a complete loss of income at no fault of their own. The poorest regions of the country are being hit hardest, emphasising the inequalities which perpetuate society with regards to the ability to access food, which are being further exacerbated by the pandemic.

The right to food is protected in the UK by the International Covenant on Economic, Social,and Cultural Rights. The covenant outlines the UK’s responsibility to ensure all children have an adequate standard of living, including the right to food. Despite the ratification of the above conventions, they are yet to be enshrined in domestic law and subsequently are not legally enforceable by UK courts. I was shocked to learn that a staggering 15% of state school educated children rely on these meals: thats 1.3 million of our future workforce to whom we are denying the potential to flourish. Hunger in children is a human rights violation which must be adequately rectified by the government in these increasingly economically turbulent times.

Even the government’s own social mobility office has shunned Boris Johnson for not extending the scheme. Children are going hungry in the sixth richest country of the world, whist MPs are being given 25 pounds a day for food, whilst on a 70,000 salary and the government spends billions of pounds on a track and trace system that doesn’t work. In its defence, the government has given councils £63m for families facing financial difficulties due to pandemic restrictions. But shouldn’t this money be put towards giving meals directly to the children, in case it it is spent elsewhere whilst being filtered through?

It’s time the government succumb to the mounting pressure and decide to extend free school meals to over the holidays. After all how can the UK ever hope to achieve equality of opportunity if the government refuses to acknowledge such a vital human need?

Exeter University student
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