OPINION
20/05/2020 06:00 BST | Updated 20/05/2020 14:49 BST

Boris Johnson, Don't Make Me And 1.3 Million Other Children Go Hungry Next Week

For reasons unexplained, the Prime Minister has decided to withdraw support for children on free school meals over May half term, writes 16-year-old Christina Adane.

Like 1.3 million other children in the UK, I get free school meals. For many young people they are, put simply, the difference between whether they eat or not. Imagine how those of us who rely on them felt when we heard they will be taken away from us during school holidays. 

I know that a lot of students are troubled with the “shame” of admitting they get free school meals, and I’ve seen kids go hungry at lunch because they don’t want to admit they don’t have the money to get food. 

It’s up to all of us to speak up, especially in lockdown, for young people that feel like their needs are a burden on others.

That’s why I started a petition to urgently call on the government not to abandon children by taking away lunches next week during half-term. It’s up to all of us to speak up, especially in lockdown, for young people that feel like their needs are a burden on others. Children shouldn’t know the feeling of a starved belly; especially when these children are living in a developed country with one of the biggest economies in the world. 

A few weeks ago, our prime minister Boris Johnson did a good thing and took steps to make sure that young people like me could get a decent lunch while schools were closed, including over the Easter holidays. But now, for reasons they haven’t explained to us, the Prime Minister has decided to withdraw that support over May half term. We don’t know what plans there are yet for the summer holidays. 

Getty
Millions of children could be without school meals over half term

We are now in our eighth week of lockdown, and with each week that passes the struggle to just get by and eat properly gets harder. Holiday periods can be a cause of distress as parents try to figure out how to provide for their kids 24/7. Too many families are reaching breaking point right now. We must make sure we are helping them. 

I shouldn’t have to worry if my parents are going to reach breaking point soon, and if they did, how we would cope.

Imagine as a parent feeling incapable to provide for your own kids. No matter how hard you work and how much you struggle, you’re not able to give them even one hot meal a day, starving yourself to feed your kids. It’s a heart-breaking reality for many families across the UK, and the government needs to find an efficient solution to solve this alarming and upsetting problem. 

And the vouchers aren’t enough. Many people can’t access big supermarkets that are a car journey away, and so are stuck buying from local stores that cost double the price for basic essentials. The government must step up and find more efficient alternatives; support local food banks that are struggling due to the surge of demand, help give emergency food parcels to those in food deserts, relieve the debts of families at breaking point. These are just a few solutions off the top of my head that would instantly improve the dire situation many of us are currently facing. 

The government is spending so much to protect businesses, and that’s the right thing to do. But surely, we need to protect the health of children too? Don’t all kids have the right to get a decent lunch? 

I’m not alone in this fight. As I scrolled through the comments under my petition, one person wrote: “How does this even have to be a petition?” Frankly, I don’t know. I was taken aback reading that because I, as a teenager, shouldn’t have to worry about kids starving. I shouldn’t have to worry if my parents are going to reach breaking point soon, and if they did, how we would cope. To quote another comment: “No young person should be worrying about whether they will have enough food.” 

Hundreds of voices have spoken out against this and over 15,000 have already signed my Change.org petition, which gives me hope that we can come together to help those more vulnerable in our society. I really believe that if enough of us ask Boris Johnson to commit to feeding 1.3 million children in England over the holidays then he will do the right thing. 

Christina Adane is 16 years old and lives in Oval, South London. She is Co-Chair of Bite Back 2030, a youth led movement campaigning for all young people to be given equal access to a good diet.