Letter from Marcus Rashford and major food CEOs to Chancellor Rishi Sunak

This letter appeared in the Sunday Times on 24th October 2021 

Dear Chancellor Rishi Sunak,

This time last year the Government invested in holiday food schemes for disadvantaged pupils.  They were a great success, bringing nutritional, social, economic and educational benefits to children and their families.  They should continue. 

But the National Food Strategy has shown that these schemes, along with free school meals during term time and the Healthy Start scheme for pre-schoolers only reach a fraction of those who need them.  Those who miss out get by through meagre packed lunches, skipping lunch entirely or filling up on cheap, calorific, low nutrient food.  Poor diets have made us an unhealthy nation and poor diets in childhood stunt potential and accrue health problems and costs, cutting into the return on precious government spending on health and education. 

Better jobs are the route out of poverty and the virtue of these children’s food schemes is that when working families shore up their income they can buy school and holiday meals themselves, reducing the long term burden on the tax payer.  While this happens, surely equality of opportunity and levelling up begin with guaranteeing every child in Britain can eat well at least once a day?  

The National Food Strategy recommended that the eligibility criteria for Free School Meals and Healthy Start should be extended to include more children at risk, and the funding for holiday programmes should continue for another 3 years.  Extending these schemes in next week’s Spending Review would cost an estimated £1.1billion per year, equivalent to 2% of the education budget and 6% of annual spend on dealing with the immediate consequences of overweight and obesity.   In Scotland and Northern Ireland free school meals have already been extended, leaving behind children in England. We are extremely concerned that a short-term view of these recommendations, when the cost of living is rising significantly, will both deepen and extend the scarring caused by the pandemic on our youngest citizens and ultimately our economy.  

Yours sincerely,

Marcus Rashford MBE 

Simon Roberts, CEO, Sainsbury’s 

Chris Silcock, General Manager, Kellogg’s UK & Ireland 

Marija Rompani, Director of Sustainability and Ethics for the John Lewis Partnership. 

Jo Whitfield, CEO Food, Co-op Group 

Will Shu, Founder and CEO of Deliveroo 

Stefano Agostini, CEO Nestlé UK & Ireland 

Richard Walker, Managing Director of Iceland  

Meghan Farren, Chief Customer Officer, Asda 

Steve Rowe, CEO, Marks and Spencer 

Ben Pearman, Managing Director, General Mills UK 

Lindsay Boswell, CEO  Fareshare 

Anna Taylor, Executive Director, The Food Foundation 

I am looking for...