Former One Direction star Zayn Malik writes to PM over free school meals
Zayn Malik has called on Prime Minister Rishi Sunak to \”give all children living in poverty\” a free school meal amid the cost-of-living crisis.
In a letter, the former One Direction star says he relied on free school lunches when growing up in Bradford.
He adds he \”personally experienced stigma around food insecurity\”.
He is backing a Food Foundation campaign with the charity estimating 800,000 children in England live in poverty but do not qualify for meals.
Although Malik, now known simply as Zayn, is not an ambassador for the charity, he said he felt compelled to write to the prime minister and to share his own experiences.
He wrote: \”These children are suffering from lack of concentration, some even resorting to stealing food from school canteens because they are so hungry but can\’t afford to buy lunch.
\”They are also feeling shame which is directly impacting their physical and mental health.
\”I know what that shame feels like, I have seen it first-hand, as growing up in Bradford, I relied on free school meals.\”
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Malik is the latest famous name to support wider access to free school meals, joining England football star Marcus Rashford and celebrity chef Jamie Oliver.
He hopes his letter convinces the government to include a free school meal for all children living in poverty as part of the Autumn statement.
The government has previously said it has already expanded access to free school meals more than any other in recent decades.
It has warned that the Feed the Future campaign has under-estimated the cost of expanding the scheme.
Ministers have said that, during term time, the government \”provides more than 1.6 million free school meals, providing pupils from the lowest-income families with a free, nutritious lunchtime meal\”.
Who is eligible for free school meals in England?
About 1.9 million children in England are eligible for free school meals, the government says, 22.5% of all pupils.
All infant-school pupils are eligible but children in Year 3 and above must live in a household receiving income-related benefits, with an annual income – after tax and not including welfare payments – no higher than £7,400.
About 40% of people who claim universal credit already have jobs and may earn above this threshold.
In Northern Ireland, the threshold is £14,000.
Scotland and Wales have recently committed to offering free school meals to all primary pupils.
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