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Petitions Committee announces evidence session on child food poverty

20 January 2021

On Thursday 21 January, the Petitions Committee will host an evidence session after a petition calling on the government to end child food poverty from footballer and campaigner Marcus Rashford received over 1.1 million signatures.

Purpose of the session

The Committee will take evidence to examine child food poverty in the UK in more detail and how to build on the Government’s winter support package. This will include evidence from a range of academics and experts including those from: FareShare, The Trussell Trust, The Children’s Society, Food Foundation, the independent lead for the Government's National Food Strategy, and the Children’s Commissioner for England. 

Chair's comment

 “Child food poverty is a serious, long-term issue – one that has only been made worse by the Covid-19 pandemic.

“The strength of public response to Marcus Rashford’s petition shows what a vital issue this is, and we look forward to hearing from experts about how to best support families during and beyond Covid-19 so that all children receive fair access to food.

“The Government must outline any plans it has to bring forward a specific long-term strategy to tackle food insecurity and child food poverty.”

Marcus Rashford MBE's comment

Ahead of Thursday’s evidence session, Catherine McKinnell MP took part in a video call with Marcus Rashford to discuss his campaign. During the discussion, Mr Rashford said:

“I think we need baselines, so if you make sure that you know, for example, all children in the UK are guaranteed a meal a day. It will take a lot of stress off the parents.”

“When you’re a child, you don’t think about it. I remember when I was younger I just used to play out all day, and then I’d go home and if there was food there I’d eat it. If there wasn’t, I’d go to sleep.”

“You just get on with your day, but the long-term effect is they’re missing out on a lot of vital stuff.”


Thursday 21 January

Panel 1 (3.30 – 4.30pm)

  • Lindsay Boswell, Chief Executive, FareShare
  • Garry Lemon, Director of Policy, External Affairs and Research, The Trussell Trust
  • Azmina Siddique, Policy and Research Manager, The Children’s Society
  • Anna Taylor, Executive Director, Food Foundation

Panel 2 (4.30 – 5.30pm)

  • Henry Dimbleby, Lead Non-Executive Board Member (DEFRA), and Independent Lead (National Food Strategy)
  • Anne Longfield, Children’s Commissioner for England

The petition

In the petition, End child food poverty – no child should be going hungry, England international player Marcus Rashford MBE states: “The Government should support vulnerable children & #endchildfoodpoverty by implementing 3 recommendations from the National Food Strategy to expand access to Free School Meals, provide meals & activities during holidays to stop holiday hunger & increase the value of and expand the Healthy Start scheme.” He adds: “Covid-19 has been tough on us all but Government should ensure children don’t pay the price.”

In response to the petition, the Government said: “We thank Marcus Rashford for highlighting the challenges facing families. On 8th November, the Government announced a comprehensive support package to help families through winter and beyond.”

“Government have announced a comprehensive package of support to help families through the winter months, and beyond through the new Covid Winter Support grant, increasing the value of Healthy Start Vouchers and the national rollout of the Holiday Activities and Food programme for the longer holidays in 2021.”

The Government announced a package in November to support vulnerable families in England in need of food this winter and during the long school holidays in 2021. The Government’s response to Marcus’ petition focused heavily on this support package, but the Committee noted two key gaps, compared with what the petition asked for.

Last month, Catherine McKinnell MP wrote to the Government urging them to provide clarity on plans to tackle food poverty last month.

Her letter to the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, and the Secretary of State for Education calls more clarity on the Government’s response.

Find out more

Image: Peter Cade