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.”
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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.