Sharon Hodgson MP's report - Oct-Nov 2022 number 155
Click on the picture above to read Sharon Hodgson MP's report - number 155
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.
Sharon Hodgson, Member of Parliament for Washington and Sunderland West and Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on School Food, recently visited the ‘Wear Here 4 Summer’ programme at Rickleton Cricket Club, Washington.
The ‘Wear Here 4 Summer’ programme, which is funded by the Department for Education’s Holiday Activity and Food Programme, has been supporting children and young people with a range of fun activities and food throughout the summer holidays.
The ‘Wear Here 4 Summer’ bus has been travelling around Sunderland bringing different activities to different areas across the city.
On Wednesday when Sharon visited, the children were taking part in a huge range of activities including smoothie making, boxing, boot camp and circus skills. There was also lots of hot and healthy food available.
The Holiday Activity and Food Programme was announced in 2020 by the Department for Education. It provides funding to Local Authorities. The funding covers Easter, summer and Christmas holidays in 2021 only.
Speaking at the ‘Wear Here 4 Summer’ bus, Sharon said:
“It was great to see the children and young people enjoying the Wear Here 4 Summer programme. They’ve had some fantastic activities and delicious food over the school holidays.
“As Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on School Food, I have been campaigning for many years for the Government to introduce funding for food and activities for children on the approximately 170 days a year when the school gates are shut.
“This programme will no doubt have had a positive impact on children across Sunderland this summer. That is why I believe the Government’s Holiday Activity and Food Programme should be available for all school holidays during the pandemic and beyond.”
Sharon Hodgson MP has today (Tuesday 16th June) welcomed the Government’s U-turn on funding free school meals over the summer holidays.
(Photo from National School Meals Week, 2018)
This U-turn follows the Labour Party’s ‘Holidays without Hunger’ campaign and Manchester United, Marcus Rashford’s letter to all MPs calling for the U-turn.
3,616 children in Washington and Sunderland West are eligible for Free School Meals and will benefit from the extension of funding for free school meals provision over the summer holidays.
With the added pressure of the Coronavirus crisis plunging families into deeper poverty and social distancing as well as added pressures raising questions on whether the usual holiday lunch schemes may run, many families are rightly concerned about how they will afford food during the summer holidays.
Sharon, who has been campaigning on free school meals since becoming an MP in 2005, said:
“Like Marcus Rashford, I grew up on free school meals, so I know how important they are to families on low incomes.
“That is why I set up the All-Party Parliamentary Group on School Food in 2010 to campaign for better free school meal provision.
“This isn’t a new problem, we know that some children go hungry during the summer holidays in ‘normal’ times. But we aren’t in ‘normal’ times.
“I welcome the Government’s U-turn on this, but they should never have delayed on this. They were shamed into backing down instead of doing the right thing in the first place.
“Children are at a heightened risk of going hungry this summer as the Covid-19 crisis hits family incomes, and charities and food banks struggle to provide the same level of holiday support.
“I will continue to join MPs, charities, organisations and Local Authorities to campaign to keep the importance of free school meals and holiday hunger on the agenda at all times, not just during a pandemic.”
Notes to Editors
1. Nearly 1.3 million children in England are eligible for free school meals which are usually provided in school during term-time. However, while schools have been closed during the Covid-19 pandemic a voucher scheme has been established instead. Schools are also able to provide alternative provision, such as food packs, which can be claimed for from the Department of Education.
2. The voucher scheme provides £15 worth of vouchers a week per child eligible for free school meals which can be redeemed in the following supermarkets: Aldi, Asda, M&S, McColl’s, Morrisons, Sainsbury’s, Tesco, Waitrose https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/covid-19-free-school-meals-guidance/covid-19-free-school-meals-guidance-for-schools
3. In England’s poorest areas, summer holiday hunger schemes are being starved of cash, leaving many children short of food (2019) https://www.theguardian.com/society/2019/aug/14/uk-holiday-hunger-schemes-deprived-children-summer
4. Labour’s ‘Holidays without Hunger’ campaign launched on Sunday 14th June. For more information click here: http://labour.org.uk/holidayswithouthunger/
As the Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on School Food (APPG), Sharon has today written to Sean Harford, National Director of Schools at Ofsted about healthy eating in schools.
In 2015, Sean wrote to Sharon to say that Ofsted was committed to giving wellbeing, health and healthy eating a more prominent place in inspections. However, four years on, the new draft Ofsted inspection framework and handbooks do not mention healthy eating, school food or food education.