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Social Justice

Zayn Malik calls on Rishi Sunak to offer free school meals to all children in poverty

“No parent should have to make impossible decisions like whether to buy food, turn on the heating, or go into debt,” the One Direction star said

One Direction superstar Zayn Malik has written an open letter to Rishi Sunak calling for free school meals to be expanded to all children living in poverty.

The singer recalled his experiences growing up in Bradford as one of many children who relied on the scheme. 

“I personally experienced the stigma surrounding food insecurity,” he wrote. “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.”

Around 800,000 children living in poverty in England are not eligible for free school meals, according to the Food Foundation. As the country faces an escalating cost of living crisis, there are concerning reports of children eating rubbers and stealing food because they are so hungry. 

“These children are suffering from lack of concentration,” Malik, known by the name Zayn, said, “with some even resorting to stealing food from school canteens because they are so hungry but can’t afford to buy lunch. They are also feeling shame which is directly impacting their physical and mental health. I know what that shame feels like.”

Malik follows other celebrities, most famously football star Marcus Rashford, in urging the government to ensure all children living in poverty are guaranteed a hot and nutritious lunch every day in school. 

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Now a father himself, the singer is supporting the Food Foundation’s Feed the Future campaign which is calling for the expansion of free school meals to all children from households which receive universal credit. He said this would “stop children from enduring the worst of the cost of living crisis which in turn only creates bigger divides between the richest and poorest”. 

Research conducted as part of the campaign revealed expanding the free school meals scheme could generate billions for the economy. The charity has also revealed that 72 per cent of the English public support the expansion of free school meals to every child in a family on universal credit. 

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In his letter, Malik calls on the prime minister to “ act in good conscience” and commit to expanding the free school meals scheme in his November budget. 

“Parents are already doing everything they can, but government support is desperately needed,” Malik said. “No parent should have to make impossible decisions like whether to buy food, turn on the heating, or go into debt. Knowing that their children are getting a good lunch at school would be a huge relief to parents who are struggling. These pressures will only get worse as food and energy prices keep rising.”

Malik is becoming an ambassador at the Food Foundation and is encouraging fans to get involved in the Feed the Future campaign by writing to their MPs and sharing their thoughts on social media. 

Anna Taylor, the Food Foundation’s executive director, said: “Zayn’s music has touched the lives of many millions of people. We are thrilled to be working together on the campaign and that he is becoming an ambassador.  His own experiences as a child will resonate with many young people in Britain today whose voices go unheard.”

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