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Jack Monroe’s warning about food poverty highlights the importance of free school meals

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Food writer and anti-poverty campaigner Jack Monroe has spoken out about the stark reality of food poverty through a Twitter thread that went viral. They have expressed concerns about inflation affecting the 'poorest and most vulnerable households', with an array of desperate circumstances forcing two and a half million citizens to use food banks in the last year.

Monroe's warning about rising food insecurity in the UK reinforces the need for a radical overhaul of our food system and highlights the importance of nutritious school meals that are accessible for all.

Child food poverty in the UK

Food poverty affects many families in the UK, who are unable to access or afford sufficient food to make up a healthy diet. According to the Food Foundation, 2.5 million children lived in a household experiencing food insecurity between February-August in 2021. 

For children experiencing the impacts of food poverty, a free school meal could be the only good meal they eat all day. Therefore, schools have an important role to play in ensuring that no child starts the day or spends any part of it distracted by hunger or poor nutrition.

Currently around one million children in poverty are not eligible for free school meals. The National Food Strategy calls for an expansion of Free School Meals to all under-16s where a parent or guardian is in receipt of Universal Credit and the Government is yet to respond to this recommendation.

#EndChildFoodPoverty

The End Child Food Poverty Campaign, spearheaded by footballer Marcus Rashford has had a huge impact on making school meals more accessible and helping children and families experiencing the challenges of food insecurity. The campaign continues to lobby Government to fix the school food system on a more permanent basis, and conduct a full review of eligibility, quality of food delivered and integrated funding. 

Laura Chan, Soil Association policy officer commented:

“The government has a once in a lifetime opportunity to rebalance the food system so it’s not rigged against us. Many families were already struggling before but the impact of the pandemic coupled with Brexit related issues has catapulted us to where we are now.

The importance of healthy school meals really comes through right now. Although school meals shouldn’t have to be a nutritional safety net, they are, and eligibility needs to be increased for free school meals. This is why we need change to the whole food system. Good healthy food should be accessible to all, which means that everyone should be able to afford it.”

Read more about Food for Life’s involvement in the End Child Food Poverty Campaign.