Zayn Malik urges Rishi Sunak to do more for children in food poverty in England

Written by Amy Beecham

The former One Direction singer shared his own experiences of using free school meals as a child growing up in Bradford.

In an open letter to prime minister Rishi Sunak, Zayn Malik has urged the government to do more to “give all children living in poverty” free school meals.

Joining the likes of footballer Marcus Rashford and chef Jamie Oliver, who have vocally supported wider access to free school meals, Malik called on the PM to use the government’s November budget to extend the threshold to include young people from families on universal credit.

“These children are suffering from lack of concentration, some even resorting to stealing food from school canteens because they are so hungry but can’t afford to buy lunch,” he wrote. “They are also feeling shame which is directly impacting their physical and mental health.”

Opening up about his own childhood, he continued: “I know what that shame feels like, I have seen it first-hand, as growing up in Bradford, I relied on free school meals.”

Malik shared that he “personally experienced the stigma surrounding food insecurity,” adding, “My hope is that in writing this letter we can all ensure that no child ever has to experience this hunger and stigma again as my experience is not unique; it is a struggle that many children in England are sadly going through right now.”

The former One Direction member has recently become an ambassador for The Food Foundation and is backing its Feed the Future campaign calling for all children in households on Universal Credit to be eligible for free school meals.

Amid a worsening cost of living crisis, the charity has estimated 800,000 children in England live in poverty but do not qualify for free school meals.

As part of the campaign, Malik urged the public to write to their MPs on the issue, before telling Sunak: “As prime minister, you have the power to change this. Please act in good conscience and commit in your budget on 17 November to giving all children living in poverty a free school meal. Children going hungry is not inevitable and should not come down to a political issue or ideology.”

You can find out more about The Food Foundation and support their work here.

Images: Getty

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