Many children miss free school meals due to ‘postal lotteries and digital poverty’ | UK News


Large numbers of children miss free school meals due to postal code lotteries and digital poverty, food charities have warned.

Nearly 1.3 million children in England will benefit from a Premier League footballer Marcus Rashford campaign to provide free school meal vouchers during the summer.

But children without access to a computer and those who do not live near a retailer accepting the vouchers would be stranded.

The issue of food inequality among children was highlighted during the coronavirus pandemic when schools were closed due to lockdown measures.

“The Bread and Butter Thing” is a Manchester-based charity for food redistribution that caters to families who cannot benefit from the free school meals program due to their place of residence or lack of Internet access .

The charity says the number of retailers that are currently part of the program is limited and that many very disadvantaged areas are not well served by large supermarkets.

It is therefore difficult for some families to access the program.

Mark Game, Managing Director of The Bread and Butter Thing, told Sky News: “If you live in an area where there are no Tesco, Asda or M&S Foodhall, you have to take a bus to go somewhere to spend these vouchers, and there are a lot of people who are really nervous about taking public transportation right now. ”

Mark Game said many families could not access the free school lunch program

Mr. Game’s charity provides meals to 4,500 families a week facing food poverty.

Families pay the charity a small fee and in return receive cupboard items, fruit and vegetables, refrigerated and frozen packages.

The charity does not want the voucher system to be exclusive to a select group of large supermarkets and it wants all food suppliers, including local grocers, grocery stores and community centers, to accept them.

They are also concerned that the digital nature of the recently expanded free school lunch voucher system will exclude people without internet access.

Coupons must be accessible online.

While schools can print vouchers for children if necessary, Mr. Game says that excludes families who don’t have access or control over their own food.

Manchester United footballer Marcus Rashford helped secure a government U-turn
The Bread and Butter Thing provides meals to 4,500 families per week
The Bread and Butter Thing provides meals to 4,500 families per week

This call to action coincides with a new campaign from the Food Foundation charity.

Activists are calling on the government to respond to a charter written by young people, demanding an end to food inequality.

The campaign report praises 22-year-old English player Rashford for being a “key catalyst for change” after helping to get the government to turn around.

The government initially opposed granting funding for free school meals during the summer vacation.

But activists want holiday arrangements to be extended permanently to support all children who normally receive free school meals when schools are closed.

Jani Clarke-Isaac and Rabiya Hussain, both 18, grew up in single parent families and suffered from food poverty.

Frozen food was largely all they needed to survive because money was an issue.

Rabiya Hussain wants more help for children in food poverty
Rabiya Hussain wants more help for children in food poverty

Jani said, “Growing up, I don’t remember eating fresh fruits or vegetables. ”

Hunger not only impacted Jani’s concentration in school, but also her choices.

She has often chosen not to do high intensity sports in order to avoid burning essential calories.

Jani told Sky News: “I love playing sports like rugby and netball, but of course they require a lot of energy. I always had to make the choice of ‘do I eat or do I play this sport’ because I knew that if I played a certain sport then I would not have enough energy to pass the rest of the day. ”

She has seen first-hand the problems and inconveniences that food inequalities can cause socially, physically and mentally.

Jani added, “It’s always on your mind because you’re still not sure about yourself, because you don’t want people to think of you as ‘that poor man’ who doesn’t have enough food. So it has an impact on your mental well-being. “

Jani Clarke-Isaac experienced food poverty
Jani Clarke-Isaac often chose not to exercise in order to avoid burning calories

Elementary school teacher Zane Powles delivered 78 packed lunches to children who are entitled to free school meals

Teacher travels miles to provide free meals for children

Jani and Rabiya now want to help build understanding of the issue.

They go to university in September and, during their free time, they work as ambassadors for the Food Foundation charity.

Rabiya wants more help for the children who are in a situation similar to her.

Speaking to Sky News, she said: “What I want is for healthy food to be provided to children who are struggling with food poverty, food inequalities and food insecurity. All of these categories. There are different types of children. and people in general who have trouble getting three basic meals a day. At the moment – even though they get three basic meals a day, they’re not always the healthiest of meals. ”

The government has said that the Summer Food Fund in England will ensure that children eligible for free school meals continue to have access to help during the summer holidays.


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