A child’s access to healthy food should not be quibbled over.
I wish to express my utter and complete condemnation for Vladimir Putin and his administration as it wages an invasion in Ukraine, killing innocent civilians and wounding many more. I have been working closely with colleagues to ensure that the Government offers the best route to asylum for Ukrainian refugees fleeing their homes as their brave soldiers repel the Russian invaders.
But, closer to home, this week I raised the issue of regional food inequality in Parliament.
The North East Child Poverty Commission; Children North East; Schools North East and the Child Poverty Acton Group wrote a joint letter to the Government, outlining the plight of north eastern children. Our children’s access to healthy food should not be something we quibble over but, regrettably, we must still make the case.
As it stands, the system offers patchwork coverage for our most vulnerable children. In the North East, one in four school-aged children living in poverty aren’t entitled to free school meals under the current threshold and around 4,000 children are ineligible because of their immigration status. This situation demands careful reflection.
There are pockets of deprivation in every corner of this country, a challenge that every borough, every city and every town must come together to work against. But areas like ours that have suffered from a decade or more of chronic underfunding will feel the impact of today’s inequality on their public health for generations.
A common reply asks: why should the state provide for other people’s children? I know that times are tough but the ultimate victim of that mindset is not the parent but the child. It is the child who will suffer the hunger and the pain.
Plus, as study after study shows, a hungry child doesn’t learn well in school. A good education is the bedrock upon which to build a firm, stable and prosperous life. Taking away our children’s best shot at security only continues the cycle of poverty. That’s why we should invest in the young now, not wait to support them further down the line if they fail.
The children of the North East deserve no less.