England and Man Utd footballer Marcus Rashford has joined celebrity chefs including Jamie Oliver and Tom Kerridge and written to the prime minister calling for an urgent review of free school meals.
The letter has also been signed by
actress Dame Emma Thompson and Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall along with more than 40 charities and other organisations.
The row over free school meals resurfaced when photos were posted on social media of food parcels widely denounced as inadequate.
The parcels will be replaced by food vouchers from next week.
Another row began after the government confirmed food will be provided to children in February half term by councils under the Covid Winter Grant Scheme, rather than through schools.
But councils and unions say the government should provide food vouchers instead, with the grant being used for other support.
The letter states in the first lockdown between March and August, 2.3 million children
experienced food insecurity and during the 2020 summer holidays 850,000 children reported that they
or their families visited a food bank.
It urges the prime minister to make sure eligibility for free school meals is equal across England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.
It asks Boris Johnson to look at how to end stigma around free school meals and to give low-income families choice and dignity.
The letter also calls for the quality of the food to be monitored and for the cost to be transparent.
It says: “Consider what we have learned
from Covid-19 and its impact on children in low-income
families and the implications of this for school food policy for the
next 5 years, as the country recovers.”