Opposition Day Debate on Free School Meals (Holidays Without Hunger Campaign)

On Tuesday 16 June 2020 our Opposition Day Debate was held on free school meals. We called on the Government to continue funding the Free School Meal provision throughout the upcoming summer holidays so that children can have a #HolidayWithoutHunger.

The Government had announced that they would be ending the free school meal voucher scheme over the summer holidays, but just hours before the debate began the Government U-turned and announced a new £120m “covid summer food fund” for 1.3 million pupils in England.  

A parliamentary procedure was used when our Chief Whip closed the debate so it would not be talked out by putting our motion to the House. Our motion was carried and the Government did not move their amendment.   

A campaign led by footballer Marcus Rashford added to the pressure on the Government. In a letter to all MPs on Monday 15 June 2020, Marcus wrote: “Can we not all agree that no child should be going to bed hungry?” I responded to Marcus’ tweet acknowledging his letter and thanking him for his inspirational personal story.

Before the pandemic, more than 4 million children in the UK were living in poverty—that is nine out of every class of 30— and that number is expected to rise to 5.2 million by 2022. Child poverty is a pandemic of its own in this country and one that has unfortunately got far worse over the last few years.

This was our motion:   

“That this House welcomes the Government’s decision to provide schools with their expected funding to cover benefits-related free school meals including the national voucher scheme over the Easter and May half-term holidays; notes the decision of the Welsh Government to guarantee each eligible child the equivalent of £19.50 a week up until the end of August to cover their meals over the summer holidays; and calls on the Government to continue to directly fund provision of free school meals, including the free school meal voucher scheme for eligible children over the summer holidays to stop children going hungry during this crisis.”