Islington teen calls on Boris Johnson to help food poverty

File photo dated 21/09/15 of of staff at a preparing boxes at a food bank. Poverty during childhood

Food poverty is a much-publicised issue in London and beyond. - Credit: PA

An Islington-based teenager has started a petition to call on the central government to help the 800,000 UK children who are living in poverty but are not eligible for school meals.

Campaigner Christina Adane, 18, published ‘Boris Johnson: Don’t Ignore 800,000 Children in Need of Free School Meals’ and has so far got more than 55,000 to sign the pledge on website change.org. 

Christina wrote: “I’m really worried because 800,000 children are living in poverty — but aren’t considered eligible for free school meals. I can’t understand why.”

She said she was inspired by young people telling her how the cost of living crisis is hitting them. 

“Every child deserves access to healthy, nutritious food, but this isn’t our reality,” Christina added. 

“I’ve seen kids go hungry at lunch because they don’t have the money to get food. The fact we’re one of the richest economies in the world and young people don’t have access to at least one nutritious meal a day is shocking.”

Christina has had coverage for her campaigns against food poverty before and was named one of the BBC’s 100 Women of 2020.

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She continued: “Boris Johnson says he wants to help families across the country who are struggling — free school meals are the perfect way to do this, and promote child health.

“Yet this week, the UK Government has chosen not to extend free school meals to all children in need.

“During lockdown, me and the other young people at Bite Back 2030 — a youth-led movement to ensure all children have access to healthy, nutritious food — started a petition calling for free school meals to be provided during the school holidays. And it worked! Over 400,000 people added their name, and helped raise attention to the issue. The Prime Minister did eventually listen to us and lots of other campaigners.”

A Government spokesperson said: “We have increased the per-pupil funding rate for universal infant free school meals, which amounts to approximately £18 million per year overall and will help schools continue to provide free, healthy and nutritious lunches for the 1.25 million children in reception, Year 1 and Year 2.

“More widely this government has expanded access to free school meals more than any other in recent decades, and is targeting over £37billion to help the most vulnerable.

“We continue to work across government to address rising costs and will keep free school meals eligibility under review, to make sure these meals are supporting those who most need them.”

To view or sign the petition, visit: www.change.org