After the British government voted against a plan to feed hungry kids in schools in the United Kingdom, the business community has taken up the cause.
Ali Waterworth’s son Ruddi is now 12 years old and doing well, but that wasn’t always the case.
Before his first birthday, he was diagnosed with bladder and prostate cancer.
“I managed to feed my kids still but I nearly lost everything so I know how tough it is,” said Waterworth, who has a small cafe in the village of Slaithwaite in West Yorkshire, England.
Her family’s experience led her to create a children’s charity called Ruddi’s Retreat.
She decided she’d use her cafe to make lunches for children in need with no questions asked after a move by Boris Johnson’s government on Oct. 21.
Conservative members of Parliament voted 322 to 261 against a Labour Party motion to extend school meal programs to ensure children in need would continue to be fed over the half-term break and through to Easter of 2021.
“It leaves me speechless, if I am honest,” Waterworth said. “If you look at some of the news reports about these children, it’s ridiculous. I cannot believe that we are not doing some form of an initiative as a country to help out.”
She is now one of hundreds offering to help and letting people know where they can turn for support, using the social media hashtag, End Child Poverty.
Marcus Rashford, a soccer player for Manchester United and England, has been the voice in the fight to end child poverty and food insecurity in England.
Earlier in the year, he wrote a heartfelt letter detailing his own experience with hunger as a boy growing up in Manchester.
His efforts were seen as a guiding hand when the Conservative government extended the same meal programs for children over the summer months.
In England in 2019, 1.3 million children claimed free meals.
Groups that work with families in need say things are getting worse because of the novel coronavirus pandemic.
According to data published by The Food Foundation, 10 per cent of parents/guardians, affecting an estimated 1.9 million children, reported that food insecurity had affected their children in a variety of ways in the last six months, forcing them to rely on only a few kinds of low-cost food to feed their children (six per cent) and provide unbalanced meals (five per cent) and to resort to smaller portions (one per cent) or skipping meals entirely (two percent).
Rashford was surprised by the government’s recent decision and some of the comments made about why children are in need and who is responsible for supporting them.
“I know, for sure, a lot of them speaking the way that they are speaking is so insensitive about the issue and they have definitely not been through it themselves,” Rashford said.
Despite the British government’s rejection, community members are taking action. Proof of that exists on the 22-year-old’s Twitter page, which is full of retweets and shares of offers to feed children across England.
Days after Johnson’s government rejected the motion to extend school meal programs for children, the issue remains on the front pages of several British newspapers, is still talked about on radio programs and remains a hot topic on social media.
In Northern Ireland, they will keep running over the half-term break and in some parts of England, such as Manchester, city councils have taken up the cause and are offering supermarket vouchers in an effort to ensure children don’t go hungry.