Thank you for contacting me about Marcus Rashford's campaign on child food poverty.
I applaud the work Mr Rashford has done to highlight the issue of food poverty, and I welcome that his efforts have been recognised with an MBE.
To help families through the pandemic, a vast package of support was brought in. The national free school meal (FSM) voucher scheme last year and this year has meant that eligible children continued to receive nutritious food during periods of school closure, and during the holidays. As students have returned to schools and colleges, those who are eligible will now receive free school meals in their educational settings. In cases where eligible children cannot attend school as they are self-isolating, schools should continue to provide free school meals support.
I voted to support the continuation of free school meals beyond their original end date as I was very well aware of the great benefit they provided for families across Teignbridge. I also support the continuation of the £20 uplift in Universal Credit which continues to have an important role in tackling poverty as the economy continues to recover from the pandemic.
More than £230 million has also been given to councils to assist those struggling to afford food and essentials. I am also encouraged that the Holiday Activities and Food Programme has been extended until Christmas 2021, with up to £220 million being made available to local authorities. This will mean all children eligible for FSM will have the option to join a holiday-time programme that provides healthy food and enriching activities.
In the longer term, Ministers are implementing the recommendation from the National Food Strategy to increase the value of Healthy Start vouchers. These vouchers support pregnant women or those with children under four who have a low income and are in receipt of benefits to buy milk, fresh fruit and vegetables. As of April 2021, Healthy Start payments increased from £3.10 to £4.25.
Thank you again for taking the time to contact me.