BISHOPS have expressed support for a Private Member’s Bill that would oblige local authorities to ensure that free meals are provided for children who would otherwise go without during the school holidays.
The School Holidays (Meals and Activities) Bill will be tabled when Parliament returns from summer recess by the Labour MP Frank Field, who chairs the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Hunger.
Mr Field said that the Government could fund the scheme with £41.5 million from its sugary-drinks levy. “If the Prime Minister were to pick up this Bill and run with it, at nil extra cost to the Government, she would tackle overnight one of the great injustices afflicting children in this country: a widening of inequalities at school caused by a lack of food during the holidays,” he said.
A report, Hungry Holidays, published by the APPG on Hunger, said that poorer children who are hungry in the holidays fall an extra month behind their peers in the new term (News, 28 April).
Mr Field’s Bill has received the backing of the Bishop of Liverpool, the Rt Revd Paul Bayes, and the Bishop of Durham, the Rt Revd Paul Butler.
Bishop Bayes said: “If a child is hungry, he or she can’t concentrate in class and can’t relax and play in the holidays either. In short, no child should ever go hungry. Frank Field’s Bill is a sensible, practical response which deserves full support.
“This Bill offers one simple, well-costed and practical way in which our political leaders can give proper support to the hungry children of our nation.”
Bishop Butler said: “The sad reality of how hard it is for some families to make ends meet during school holidays is one that we have sought to engage with as a diocese, alongside others. This Bill offers a serious way forward.”
St Barnabas’s, Clarksfield, which is part of the Medlock Head Team Ministry in Oldham, ran a scheme during the summer, which provided about 1500 breakfasts for children. The Team Vicar, the Revd Dr Paul Monk, said: “We also provided craft work and a foodbank. Imaginative ways of providing food and youth work of this kind help bring hope to places like Oldham.”