Essex Labour ‘furious’ at government’s free school meals decision

Left to right: Teacher George Johnson, Labour Essex County Councillor Lee Scordis, GO4 members Pepi Sanchez and Piter Vera...

Left to right: Teacher George Johnson, Labour Essex County Councillor Lee Scordis, GO4 members Pepi Sanchez and Piter Vera Arroyo. Photo: Supplied by Councillor Lee Scordis. - Credit: Supplied by Councillor Lee Scordis

Labour councillors at Essex County Council have hit back at the government’s voting on free school meals over half term.

Essex Labour group leader Ivan Henderson called on ECC to step in. There are 1,053 children who receive free school meals in the Saffron Walden constituency and 1,462 children in the Braintree constituency, based on January 2019 data from the Department for Education. In Chelmsford, there are 1,604.

A spokesperson for the Labour councillors said: “Essex Labour Group is furious at the government’s decision not to extend free school meal support over the school holidays, at a time when the furlough scheme ends and unemployment is rising.

“Families are struggling more than ever. This country should be ashamed that food poverty exists in the fifth richest country in the world.

“The response across Essex has been fantastic from local communities, who are determined that children will receive a nutritious meal.

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“After pressure from Labour, we welcome the fact that free meals were set up before Covid to feed the poorest children. However, the government needs to provide more funding for this.”

Councillor Lee Scordis recently went shopping for food supplies with social enterprise GO4, who are said to have spent almost £1,000 of their own money to help with free school meals for children.

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Cllr Scordis said GO4 have been feeding Essex families for seven months, including more than 30 families throughout lockdown.

“This week they have fed over 238 families and rising.”

George Johnson, secondary school teacher, also went on the shopping trip. He said: “I am helping out because it is not the fault of these kids that they will struggle this half term.

“Food is not a luxury we can live without. It is an essential that is needed for life. As a teacher, I have seen first hand the effect of having a nutritious meal has on a child, on their ability to learn and to thrive. “We will ensure that those at the very bottom of society will be able to survive. This pandemic is not their fault and the government should not have abandoned them.”

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