// Co-op wrote to Boris Johnson, insisting that children eligible for free school meals are not left hungry during a possible ‘circuit breaker’ half term
// The government refused to extend the summer holiday meal vouchers scheme into half term
// Co-op has pledged to provide vouchers during the October half term
Co-op chief executive Steve Murrells has sent an open letter to Boris Johnson calling for children eligible to receive free school meals to not be left hungry in case of a possible one or two week ‘circuit breaker’ half term.
The letter was also sent to Secretary of State for Education, Gavin Williamson.
The move comes as the government refused to extend the summer holiday meal vouchers scheme into half term, due to the country being “in a different position now”.
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The Co-op has pledged to provide vouchers during the October half term for all 5000+ eligible students in its 25 Academies across the North of England, as schools start to break from next week.
Murrells also said Co-op will be making £20 available to each student each week, as opposed to the current £15 allocated by the DfE as it is “simply the right thing to do”.
The Co-op has already invested £2.6 million in feeding its students since lockdown measures first came into effect and continues to offer vouchers to those eligible students who are self isolating.
“We simply cannot let any child go hungry as a result of this pandemic. As the chief executive of a leading business with its roots in the north, I can see at first hand the acute challenges faced by vulnerable children and their families,” Murrell said.
“The need faced is more serious for families now than it was in the summer – jobs have been lost and whatever savings families had have long gone.
“As a nation we must step in and provide support to the communities who most need it.
“There are more than 1.4 million children in England alone who are in desperate need of support this half term – the fact that the Co-op support can only reach 5000 deeply concerns me.
“I urge you to reconsider the government’s position and ensure that this half term – and whenever a school is shut – vulnerable families can afford to feed their children.”
Marcus Rashford said: “The Co-op has been a fantastic ally and partner in recent months and whilst we remain focused on seeing a long-term sustainable framework implemented without delay via the three endorsed National Food Strategy policy recommendations, I welcome the swift action of the Co-op to alleviate fear of facing a school holiday without sufficient access to food resources for children across their 25 Academies in the North of England with the implementation of this scheme.
“The British public and the food industry cares, I would urge those in power to demonstrate the same without delay.”