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Further action needed to combat child food poverty, says Petitions Committee Chair

2 November 2021

Petitions Committee Chair, Catherine McKinnell MP, has welcomed the Government’s announcement in the Autumn Budget Statement to provide £200 million a year to continue the Holiday Activity and Food Programme, but said there are still gaps in support which need further action.

The announcement comes after Catherine McKinnell MP wrote to Rt Hon Thérèse Coffey MP, Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, asking about the Government’s plans for long-term funding for the Holiday Activities and Food Programme.

In the letter, Catherine raised concerns that there are gaps in support for children from families on incomes too low to avoid food insecurity, but not low enough to qualify for free school meals or the Healthy Start voucher scheme.

Thérèse Coffey MP did not directly address these gaps in her response, stating instead that the Government does not release ideas or information ahead of finalising policy.

Chair’s comments

Catherine McKinnell MP, Chair of the Petitions Committee, said:

“I was pleased to see confirmation in the Budget that regular yearly funding will be provided for the Holiday Activities and Food Programme.

“The Committee has previously raised concerns with Ministers about the lack of a long-term funding commitment, so this is welcome.

“Marcus Rashford’s petition and campaign has done so much to draw attention to the distressing fact of child food poverty in England, but with families facing rising food prices this winter, Government must do more on this issue.

“I know campaigners have raised particular concerns about lack of support for children from families on low incomes who don’t qualify for free school meals.

“The Government must look closely at the recommendations when it responds to the National Food Strategy review in the new year.”

National Food Strategy

In July 2021, Henry Dimbleby published an independent review to inform the development of a UK National Food Strategy. The strategy recommended that Free School Meal eligibility should be expanded to all children aged 7-18 in all households earning £20,000 or less after benefits.

The strategy also recommended that the Healthy Start eligibility should be expanded to all households earning £20,000 or less after benefits with pregnant women or children under five.

Further information

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