Free school meals: 200 children’s authors condemn government | Education

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More than 200 children’s authors, including Shirley Hughes, Philip Pullman, Malorie Blackman and Matt Haig, have put their names to a letter decrying the government’s vote against providing free school meals for children in England during half-term.

This week, Conservative MPs rejected a Labour motion, inspired by the footballer Marcus Rashford’s campaign on child hunger, by 322 votes to 261. Rashford has urged MPs to unite and stop being influenced by “political affiliation”.

Published on Friday, the letter, which was put together by the children’s author Anne Booth, says: “Regardless of our individual personal backgrounds, political and religious positions, we all recognise the unique position children and their families have been placed in because of this pandemic, and believe that no child in this nation should go hungry this winter.

“We believe children should not have to depend on pot luck charity, and there should be official, organised, government support across the nation to ensure no child experiences the insecurity of hunger as well as the stress of the pandemic.”

Booth told the Guardian: “Caring about children is the job of authors. We want them to be happy, we visit them at school. We know hungry children can’t read or learn. I was so depressed by that vote, I can’t bear that children are going hungry. We’ve got billionaires and shell companies making money from this pandemic, and we can’t afford to feed children?”

Booth said her husband, a former teacher, used to provide breakfast to his students, and that she frequently spoke to teachers about the issue of hungry children in their classes. “Hungry children can’t concentrate – and so immediately you are setting them on a path for the rest of their lives,” she said. “If this government are going to talk about feeding children economically, it is an investment to feed every child.”

Booth said she had to close the letter after being inundated with messages of support. “I didn’t expect so many people were feeling so desperate about it. So many authors have told me they had free school meals. And writers are struggling right now, so there could be some who have hungry children themselves. There is not a small subsection of undeserving families who don’t feed their children. People are suffering in England in this pandemic. All children should be looked after.”

Other signatories include the children’s laureate Cressida Cowell, Frank Cottrell-Boyce, David Almond, Joanne Harris and David Baddiel.

“If more of those MPs read Shirley Hughes as children, they’d be much kinder people now,” said Booth.

Several local authorities and restaurants have decided to take independent action, with Rashford sharing offers from restaurants across England. The London councils Redbridge, Hammersmith & Fulham and Southwark, and Liverpool council are offering to pay for daily lunches from Monday. The Greater Manchester mayor, Andy Burnham, is also offering 1,000 Co-op vouchers for children across the region.

Hafta Ichi
Source: The Guardian
Keyword: Free school meals: 200 children’s authors condemn government | Education

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