An open letter spearheaded by author Anne Booth, and signed by over 200 children’s authors and illustrators, including the likes of Philip Pullman and Malorie Blackman, has protested and condemned the UK government’s decision to vote against extending the free school meal scheme over the holidays.
The letter was published in The Guardian last Friday, and stated:
“Regardless of our individual personal backgrounds, political and religious positions, we all recognise the unique position children and their families have been placed in because of this pandemic, and believe that no child in this nation should go hungry this winter.”
The open letter continued: “We believe children should not have to depend on pot luck charity, and there should be official, organised government support across the nation to ensure no child experiences the insecurity of hunger as well as the stress of the pandemic.”
The motion was originally brought forward by the Labour party and was led by Footballer Marcus Rashford. MPs rejected it by 322 votes to 261, giving a government majority of 61.
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has stated that the party intends to push for a second vote.
Speaking to The Guardian, Booth said:
“Caring about children is the job of authors. We want them to be happy, we visit them at school. We know hungry children can’t read or learn. I was so depressed by that vote, I can’t bear that children are going hungry. We’ve got billionaires and shell companies making money from this pandemic, and we can’t afford to feed children?”
She continued: “Hungry children can’t concentrate—and so immediately you are setting them on a path for the rest of their lives. If this government are going to talk about feeding children economically, it is an investment to feed every child.”