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Hungry children, a political choice?

National Education Union

3 min read Partner content

The National Education Union is proud to work with The Mirror on a joint campaign – Free School Meals for All. We demand that no child in primary school face the pain and distress of going hungry. Children cannot learn if they are not eating properly and, despite the best efforts of parents and carers, spiralling living costs are pushing families to the edge.

Children have started the new school term in the midst of the greatest cost of living crisis in a generation. Child poverty numbers are creeping towards four million as the cost of food and fuel spirals. Shamefully, we are witnessing the re-emergence of Victorian illnesses like rickets. Something must be done.

We are facing the worst cost-of-living crisis in living memory. Wages and benefits aren't keeping pace with rising bills. This is hitting our children, the most vulnerable members of society, the hardest. 

Regular, nutritious food is the backbone of a secure childhood – and vital for ensuring every child can reach their potential in school. But too many young people are going without – 2.6 million children live in households that have gone short of food in the last month.

No child should come to school too hungry to learn. No child should have to experience anxiety or fear for where their next meal is coming from. No child should feel humiliated by their families’ circumstances, or struggle to concentrate in class because they haven’t had lunch. But now, in 2022, this is the shocking reality that millions of children are enduring.

The eligibility threshold for access to Free School Meals (FSM) is appallingly low. Families need to be on less than £7,400 a year for their children to access a free school dinner. Many working families are finding their wages don't meet the criteria and there is no safety net to help them feed their children. As recession looms, millions more will find themselves pushed below the breadline.

It’s time the Government steps up and took responsibility for the decade of austerity which has led to so many children coming to school hungry.

Feeding every child in every primary school in England will mean children get a good meal every day. It's not only the right thing to do – it will be the only lifeline for millions of families facing a very bleak winter.

The NEU and The Mirror are co-hosting a powerful fringe event at Labour Party Conference, posing the question “Hungry children, a political choice?” Join us on Sunday 25 September from 5.45pm and find out how you can help fight for change to ensure all children have access to a much needed Free School Meal.

Chaired by The Mirror’s Ros Wynne-Jones, speakers include Kevin Courtney, Joint General Secretary of the National Education Union, Ian Byrne MP, Kim Johnson MP and Sadiq Khan, Mayor of London, and CPAG CEO Alison Garnham.

Together, we need to make sure that no child is left behind. 

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