Thousands of paediatricians have signed a letter putting pressure on the government to extend free school meals to vulnerable children during the school holidays.
It comes after Tory MPs voted not to back footballer Marcus Rashford’s campaign to feed children on the poverty line.
The decision caused outrage up and down the country, prompting thousands of businesses to offer free meals to children from low income backgrounds.
Now, more than 2,000 children’s doctors have come together to demand that the Conservative government perform a U-turn on their decision.
Members of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH) have written an open letter expressing their dismay at the government’s vote, while thanking the England footballer for his efforts to end child poverty.
‘Childhood hunger is an issue that should transcend politics. Few would disagree that one of our most basic human responsibilities is to ensure children have enough to eat,’ the letter reads.
Childhood hunger is an issue that should transcend politics. Few would disagree that one of our most basic human responsibilities is to ensure children have enough to eat.
— RCPCH (@RCPCHtweets) October 24, 2020
‘We call on the UK Government to match the pledges of the Welsh and Scottish Governments and the Northern Ireland Executive, to continue to provide children from low-income backgrounds with free meals over the coming weeks and to then extend this at least until the Easter school holiday, as they have done in Wales and Scotland.’
Kate Green, shadow education secretary for the Labour Party, has asked Boris Johnson to meet with Rashford’s team ‘as a matter of urgency,’ and has promised to bring the issue back to parliament if a U-turn does not occur before Christmas.
Several Tory MPs have spoken against the vote not to back Rashford’s campaign, with Bournemouth East MP Tobias Ellwood describing the proposed provision as ‘a simple and practical vehicle’ to support families during these difficult times.
RCPCH President Professor Russell Viner said:
I’ve rarely seen such anger among our members. We see far too many (hungry children).
There is an opportunity to put this right. It is pointless to talk about levelling up the country, an ambition which we support, while refusing to offer temporary relief to children and families.
A petition set up by Rashford, calling on the government to end child food poverty, has received more than 837,000 signatures at the time of writing.
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