Newcastle North MP and Chair of the Petitions Committee in Parliament, Catherine McKinnell, today – 24 May 2021 – led a debate in Parliament on child food poverty. The debate followed the high profile petition and campaign started by Manchester United and England footballer, Marcus Rashford.

Signed by over 1.1million people, Catherine explained that the petition “makes three key demands of the Government: to provide meals and activities during all school holidays; to expand free school meals to all under-16s where a parent or guardian is in receipt of universal credit or an equivalent benefit; and to increase the value of Healthy Start vouchers to at least £4.25 a week, which has already happened, and to expand the scheme”.

During the debate, Catherine highlighted that child food poverty is a “serious issue – and although the unprecedented circumstances of the last 14 months have certainly made things worse and put a spotlight on child food poverty like never before, it is a problem that was with us before any of us had heard of Covid-19, and, sadly, one that will be with us long after we come out of lockdown”.

Catherine outlined that “what Marcus Rashford and the 1.1 million who have signed his petition are pushing for is a long-term plan to support families facing food poverty” and she called on the Government to listen.

She further stated “there is no shortage of food in this country, and children aren’t going hungry because they can’t get food. They’re going hungry because their families can’t afford food, because they’re stuck in a cycle of insecure work, lack of opportunity, high cost of living and let down by a social security system that is failing at its most basic function.

In closing the debate, she said “The most important step the Government could take to address child food poverty is to address child and family poverty itself with a cohesive, joined-up strategy across Government” highlighting that “we are still one of the richest countries in the world and there is nothing inevitable about millions of children going hungry here”.

Following the debate, Catherine commented “Marcus Rashford has done an amazing job using his immense platform and personal experience to bring this issue to the forefront of people’s minds, building on the previous work of Parliamentarians and campaigners”.

“Today I put the demands of all those who signed this petition directly to the Government. It is shameful that in 2021 we should still have to be debating child food poverty and that the situation is getting worse, not better,

“I challenged the Government today to work across Government on a commitment to ending child poverty, for those facing child food poverty and all those who signed the petition, we now need to see action, not words, from the Government.”