Free School Meals - an open letter to our MP

We have been contacted by some people who would like to get a response from our MP, Mr Anthony Mangnall, about his vote against ensuring free school meals for children through the holidays. 

Free School Meals stock photo - credit Cheshire East Council

In order to cover the thoughts and feelings of a lot of people in the South Hams about this vote, I have written Mr Mangnall an open letter. 

Dear Mr Mangnall, 

I'm sure you have seen from your own Facebook page that your decision to vote against providing free school meals to children over the holidays, meaning that 1.4million children might go hungry this Christmas, has been met with some...hostility...from your constituents. I have been contacted twice by people asking why you chose to vote against this. 

I imagine there are many in your Government who would say that they have to balance the trust of the taxpayer against the needs of the poor. Its a shame you didn't consider that when you voted against measures to reduce tax avoidance, or when your Government gave £12 billion to Serco for a Test and Trace system that has been branded a "shambles"(1). 

Do you think its fair that the Government spent £522 million on subsidising meals (2), for those who could afford to eat out, with the Eat Out to Help Out scheme but not vote for £20million a week ot would cost to feed children? 

Did you consider the taxpayer when you found out that MPs are in line for another pay rise?

Did you consider the taxpayer when you found out that MPs are in line for another pay rise?

Does your Government consider the taxpayer when it plans to spend £120million on a Brexit festival? Or almost £1million repainting the Brexit plane? Or the £15billion being floated for a bridge from Scotland to Northern Ireland? Or the £140million investment in failed company OneWeb? We can afford these but we can't afford to feed hungry children? (3)

In order to save the taxpayer money, I assume you will be working to remove the subsidies from the bar and canteens in the House of Commons? I mean if low income families can pay for their own lunch then surely so can MPs? How about the £4.4million spent subsidising beer in the HoC? (3)

There will, I'm sure, be others that bemoan the parents for having children in the first place. "Don't have children if you can't afford to feed them!" is the cry that goes up at times like these. But with unemployment rising during the pandemic, what about all the parents who had full time employment when they started their family? Are you supposed to be able to guarantee your income for 20 years before having children? What about the parents who brought children into the world only to have their partner leave them, taking their salary out the door? What if they or their partner dies, or gets ill, or gets injured, or develops mental health issues? What then? Isn't this what the Government is for? To support those people in their time of crisis?

I can hear some of your supporters bemoaning parents "on benefits" for spending "all their money on booze and fags" or if they just "cancel their Sky subscription you could afford to feed your kids". While we know this is completely untrue for most people on low incomes, it doesn't address the main issue, which is that even if it is lazy parents, even if they do spend all their money on Malboro lights and gin, do you know who's not at fault? The children. 

Even if it is lazy parents, even if they do spend all their money on Malboro lights and gin, do you know who's not at fault? The children.

Why are we penalising children for something that is so completely out of their control? 

We know, as Conservative MP Paul Sully said on TV this week, that children having been going hungry in this country "for years", after a decade of Conservative cuts, but in this time of national crisis, how can we not be supporting our most vulnerable in society? (4)

Your Government set the furlough rate at 80%, your Government made sure Universal Credit wasn't enough to live on. Even those working full time jobs cannot guarantee they can afford to feed their kids as your Government knows that the minimum wage is not a living wage, I mean, in their own manifesto they pledged to raise it to £10.50 an hour within five years (something they backtracked on almost immediately in the Queen's Speech when they suddenly added "provided economic conditions allow"). (5)

We know that parents have been skipping meals to feed their children. In 2018, 1 in 4 parents said they had skipped a meal due to lack of money. Since then there has been two more years of cuts and a global pandemic so its not as if that number will have gone down. (6)

I write this open letter to you as I sit in a warm house, having just got back from a weekly shop so I have a full fridge and my son is asleep with a full tummy. The thought of not being able to feed my child is heart wrenching. The thought that children, through no fault of their own, are going to bed with the pain of hunger in the pit of their stomachs, in this country, in 2020, is something that would keep me up at night, and I'm not a parent stressing themselves sick because they will have extra meals to put on the table on Monday - with no clue how they're going to do it. 

But what has been uplifting is the amount of individuals and small businesses that have stepped up to say they will provide food packages or kids' lunchboxes to anyone who needs it. When Government fails, community steps up. But they shouldn't have to.

Yours Sincerely, 

Sam Acourt

Editor, South Hams Journal 

If you are struggling to cope without free school meals, contact your local foodbank. Click your area for contact details: Kingsbridge, Totnes, Ivybridge, Dartmouth








We will update this story when we recieve a response from Mr Mangnall MP 


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