14/08/2019 17:12 BST | Updated 15/08/2019 16:30 BST

Thousands Of Chicken Shop Boxes Are Being Used In The Fight Against Knife Crime

Home Office joins forces with more than 200 outlets as MPs warned of "‘chicken shop grooming" fuelling violence.

More than 300,000 chicken boxes that feature a Home Office anti-knife crime campaign have been distributed to over 200 outlets across the UK.

As part of the government’s #knifefree push, the insides of the boxes are printed with real life stories of young people who have chosen to pursue positive activities, such as boxing or music, instead of carrying a knife.

The boxes will replace the standard packaging in both independent and chain chicken shops, including Morley’s, Chicken Cottage and Dixy Chicken. Many of the participating shops will also have accompanying screens showing films promoting the campaign.

Policing minister Kit Malthouse said: “These chicken boxes will bring home to thousands of young people the tragic consequences of carrying a knife and challenge the idea that it makes you safer.

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Morley’s is one of the chains taking part in the campaign.

“The government is doing everything it can to tackle the senseless violence that is traumatising communities and claiming too many young lives, including bolstering the police’s ranks with 20,000 new police officers on our streets.”

Under this initiative, new street teams will also be deployed to visit convenience stores, hair salons and barber shops as well as places of worship and community centres across London, Manchester and Birmingham.

The groups are comprised of people trained to speak to local communities about the campaign and on the risks of carrying a knife.

The chicken boxes are being introduced nationwide following a successful partnership with Morley’s in March this year, during which 20,000 takeaways were distributed in 15 branches.

In November, 15-year-old Jay Hughes was fatally stabbed outside a Morley’s branch in Bellingham, south London.

After being attacked, the teenager staggered into the chicken shop where customers began first aid. He died a short while after, having sustained a single stab wound to the heart.

Nyron Baptiste, 18, was charged with Hughes’ murder and sentenced to life imprisonment on 2 August.

The national expansion of the campaign comes as it emerged on Monday that criminal gangs are recruiting children to deal drugs with the offer of free food from chicken shops.

‘Chicken shop grooming’ was cited in written evidence submitted to the youth select committee of MPs, which is investigating the UK’s ongoing knife crime issue.

Of the #knifefree collaboration, Morley’s managing director Shan Selvendran said: “We have been saddened by the recent increase in knife crime. We want to promote being knife free by using custom chicken boxes to deliver the message and start conversations amongst all of our customers.”

Labour MP David Lammy has, however, criticised this initiative. 

Posting on Twitter, he wrote: “Is this some kind of joke?! Why have you chosen chicken shops? What’s next, #KnifeFree watermelons?”

NHS figures show that admissions for all knife injuries have increased by almost a third since 2012 – from 3,888 to 5,052 last year - with stabbings involving victims aged between 10-19 increasing by 60%.

Children may be most at risk of being stabbed as they make their way home from school, according to research published earlier this year, and fast food venues like Morley’s are popular locations for teenagers to hang out in the evening.