Parliament on Wednesday 24 October, voted against a motion for free school meals in school holidays, by a majority of 61.

The motion was put forward by the Labour Party calling on the Conservatives to extend free school meals over the holidays up to and including the Easter break next year.

Following an opposition day debate in the Commons, the government declined to support the proposal that would have seen the same level of support afforded to families as was provided over the summer break.

Food being served at Break Free a holiday activity project that targets holiday hunger

The motion had been backed, pushed and supported by Manchester United and England forward Marcus Rashford, himself a former free school meals child.

As a charity where addressing poverty and socio-economic inequality is at the heart of what we do, we wanted to react to this. Running holiday hunger projects such as Break Free with our partners Community of Purpose, and offering food packages and parcels throughout the lockdown period alongside South Bristol schools such as Merchants Academy and Bedminster Down, we know first hand how vital this support is.

And we see this as a social issue, not a party political one. 

We have collated comment not just from our CEO, but from youth workers that see this day to day reality. They read as follows:

Den - Lead youth worker : "When families have to make the hard decision whether to spend their limited income on either food to feed the family or put money on their gas/electricity card, to some is an unthinkable situation to be in in 2020, but this is still a reality for many families living in South Bristol. 

Den (left) with actor Joe Sims and trustee Levi

Food, light and warmth are classed as basic essential needs to survive,  and for many these basic needs are met without a second thought. So, to try to imagine having to make a decision between feeding a family or keeping them warm is not even comprehensible to most. 

Walking up the street you cannot see hunger, there is no physical signs that a child is hungry. It is invisible, and if something is invisible and not seen then it is all too easy to ignore and pretend it does not exist or assume that every child you pass is having the basic needs met. 

For those people living with hunger it is not invisible and does exist and it is a bigger issue locally and nationally than is accepted.  Child hunger needs to pushed up the agenda and not ignored just because it cannot be seen."

CEO Ali Dale (centre) on receiving an award for youth work on behalf of Youth Moves

Ali Dale - CEO : It is shocking that in 2020 in the UK we have young people who are going without a meal during times when they are not in school, and we support Marcus Rashford and everyone campaigning to make a change for the better #nomoreholidayhunger campaign.

In the last 3 years we have worked with 439 different young people, almost 40% of these are entitled to free school meals x3 the national average and served around 1670 meals. This is through our Break Free programme which provides great free holiday activities & free food to all who attend across every school holiday at local community venues in South Bristol. 

Zinnia Murdoch - Youth Worker : "Meals can be made cheaply - but that is ignoring the need for time, gas, energy and accessible healthy food. Many of these resources are short for families in Bristol, who may rely on the daily lunches from school.  
Seeing community in Bristol come together to feed, clothe and support one another - particularly during the pandemic - has been bittersweet. 
Imagine what amazing things Bristol could achieve if poorer people and communities were not struggling to have their basic needs met. 
A number of families would not survive without local charity, neighbours, youth organisations and so on - where the government has failed to support and uplift.
This decision will have a hugely negative and lasting impact."

Jim outside on the playing area of The Park Centre in Knowle

Jim - youth worker : "Think this is a shocking decision by the government not to support these young people and there families. Growing up in this community and now working in it you can honestly see how important to families food and activities are during the holiday times."

Paul - youth worker : "I don’t want to get political but I honestly feel that this government is so out of touch with the end of the spectrum that really need the support on estates like  K W and Hartcliffe this will or would make a massive difference 

The lady Tory MP who resigned I fully understand her view but others just follow the party line even if they do agree with it."

George (left) who heads up the mentoring service with a young person on a 121 session

George - youth worker : "This decision is showing the true colours of some politicians. I wish some of them could spend a few weeks actually working in deprived areas and physically see how hungry young people are, especially those at open access.

They have the biggest smile on their face when they can take away supermarket food donations after youth club because they have hardly any food at home. Unemployment, mental health and isolation is on the increase and this will lead to more young people going starving every day. 

Go on Rashford we’re all routing for you."

Lisa - youth worker : "This seems like a particularly poor decision on behalf of the government. 322 out of 364 Tory MPS voted against giving disadvantaged children free school meals over the school holidays which shows just how out of touch they are with what's happening on the ground for many families.

It really says something when they themselves have access to subsidised food and alcohol through taxpayers money at parliament and have just awarded themselves a payrise of over 3k per year. Shocking."

If feel you want to support the cause for free school meals in holidays you can sign this petition here