Richard Walker, boss of the UK supermarket chain Iceland, has urged Rishi Sunak to extend free school meals to all families on universal credit. Walker, who is also standing to be a Conservative MP and currently sits on the prime minister’s business council, said he would like to see free school meals extended as a “critical priority”.
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“Food insecurity is inevitably on the rise, and it’s the households with kids who are most at risk,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme. “Extending free school meals would be a really important way of addressing that.”
Sunak is reportedly considering extending free school meals over the Christmas holidays, but it is not thought that he is considering making the change permanent.
Labour has called on the government to extend free school meals to all children in poverty, arguing that it would help to reduce inequality and ensure that all children have access to a nutritious diet.
According to government figures, 1.3 million children in England – around one in five – live in poverty. This is expected to rise to 2.5 million by the decade’s end, and experts have warned that the Covid-19 pandemic will only exacerbate child poverty levels.
In addition, a recent UN report found that 14 million children in the UK are at risk of going hungry.
The government must take action to address this issue, and extending free school meals would be a good place to start. It is time for Sunak to listen to the pleas of families across the country and give them the support they need.
What do you think? Should free school meals be extended to all families on universal credit? Let us know in the comments below.