Call for free school meal access as cost-of-living crisis deepens

By Rod Addy

- Last updated on GMT

Credit: iStock monkeybusinessimages
Credit: iStock monkeybusinessimages

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The Government must extend access to free school meals, according to the Food Foundation, as a report commissioned by former Prime Minister Gordon Brown outlines the deepening impact of the cost-of-living crisis.

The report, Is Cost of Living Support Enough?,​ is endorsed by 56 charities and faith groups. It was put together by professor Donald Hirsch, director of the Centre for Research in Social Policy at Loughborough University.

It shows that, for households on benefits, the support that the Government has so far offered to help with the cost of living crisis does not offset the impact of three key income blows. These are the loss of the £20 Universal Credit uplift; inflation rates outpacing the level at which benefits have been uprated; and the forecast £800 increase in the energy price cap. The gap is most severe for the largest households.

£1,600 gap

A couple with two children is shown to be facing a gap of at least £1,600 this year, according to the report. The larger the household, the bigger the shortfall. With inflation rates predicted to rise further still, the figures presented in this report are only likely to rise, leaving families in an even worse situation.

In his introduction to the report, former Prime Minister Gordon Brown stated: "We are facing a humanitarian crisis that Britain hasn’t seen in decades. As living costs continue to skyrocket, families on the brink of making ends meet cannot bridge the gap.

"Despite the additional support from Government, millions of people are at risk of being pushed deeper into poverty by forces outside of their control. It is the urgent task of the next Prime Minister to ensure that families have enough to live, through this crisis and beyond."

'Serious shortfall'

Isabel Hughes, policy engagement manager at The Food Foundation, said: "We and many other organisations and politicians from all sides have repeatedly warned of this impending crisis caused by the worst cost-of-living squeeze in living memory. There is now a very serious shortfall in support for families who are most seriously in need.

"Urgent action is needed. That is why we have repeatedly called for extended access to free school meals for the millions of children living in poverty who currently miss out on this vital safety net. Ensuring these children’s access to one nutritious hot meal a day is the quickest way to prevent an under-nutrition epidemic which will otherwise blight the education, health and future productivity prospects of a generation.

"We hope the incoming government will take seriously Professor Hirch’s authoritative analysis and understand the need for immediate intervention."

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