We've all seen in recent weeks newspaper headlines exposing the problem of food labelling and quality. However, another pressing concern also exists. Figures released by the charity The Children's Society show that in the UK 1.2 million children living in poverty are missing out on free school meals. Across Sunderland, the charity have estimated that over 2000 children aren't receiving the nutritious, hot meal every day to which they are entitled. We know that children perform better at school when they've had a proper meal.
The previous Labour government made tackling child poverty a priority because too often children living in poverty become adults living in poverty. This cycle needs to be broken.
In the months ahead the government will be rolling out its Universal Credit system across the country. This would combine many existing benefits into one single benefit, including those a family would need in order to qualify for free school meals. Many parents and education staff have raised their concerns with me about what will happen to free school meals under the new system.
It's deeply troubling the government is pressing ahead while there are still so many unanswered questions. The introduction of the Universal Credit has been beset by problems, delays and is over budget. The theory of a simplified system is no good if the reality is altogether different. It's vital that the government gets this right before it is too late or families will suffer.