Pop singer Zayn Malik, who once relied on free school lunches as child, is urging the British prime minister, Rishi Sunak, to give all children living in poverty free school meals. He believes that children going hungry is not inevitable and should not come down to a political issue or ideology.
The former One Direction singer, who is the ambassador for the Food Foundation, has written to the PM to use the government's November budget to extend to the threshold for free school meals to include young people from families on universal credit.
Zayn Malik's Open Letter
In the letter shared on Instagram, the Mind of Mine singer said four million children live in households who experienced food poverty in September 2022. Malik outlined that 800,000 children in England miss out on a Free School Meal even though they are living in poverty. Because of the cost of living crisis, children are suffering from lack of concentration and some even resort to stealing food from school canteens because they can't afford to buy it.
"They are also feeling shame, which is directly impacting their physical and mental health. I know what that shame feels like, I have seen it first-hand, as growing up in Bradford, I relied on Free School Meals. I personally experienced the stigma surrounding food insecurity. My hope is that in writing this letter, we can all ensure that no child ever has to experience this hunger and stigma again as my experience is not unique; it is a struggle that many children in England are sadly going through right now."
Malik, who became the first British male artist to debut at number one in both the U.K and the U.S, believes extending the current threshold and giving Free School Meals to children from families on Universal Credit would be the best way to reach those who need it the most. "This would stop children from enduring the worst of the cost-of-living crisis which in turn only creates bigger divides between the richest and the poorest." The pop singer regards Free School Meals as a big help for the poorest children in the society. "They guarantee a reliably hot nutritious lunch every day at school, so children can thrive rather than worrying about where their next meal comes from."
Malik acknowledges the fact that government support is desperately needed. He said knowing that their children are getting a good lunch at school would be a huge relief to parents who are struggling. "I hope the government does what's right and makes the changes that are needed." Malik reminded Sunak that pressures will only intensify as food and energy prices continue to rise.