The Tory Government feeds nothing but their wallets
By Lucy Macdonald
Image courtesy of David Hagwood
School closures were largely anticipated following the government decision to tighten national restrictions since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in the UK. While the endeavour of home-schooling children has been a stressful time for many, for the families of the 4 million children living in poverty in the UK, school closures brought fear and uncertainty for those in receipt of the free school meals programme, according to CPAG. But the stark reality is that our nation’s children are not only subject to the hungers of empty stomachs, but also to the hungers of capitalism, privatisation, and privilege.
Looking at NHS wellness guidance, we see a hardly ground-breaking nor revolutionary notion that the nutrition of children is vital in allowing them to grow into healthy adults. No child should be disadvantaged based on their income as a direct impact to their physical and mental development. Yet, there are a number of alarming studies highlighting that inefficient nutrition in young children in addition to income inequality can impact a child’s expected or anticipated academic success. These children begin their education already behind their classmates and never catch up; Save The Children states that in Scotland alone, by the time children living in some of the country’s most deprived areas are three years old, they are nine months behind the average development of their age group. If children can’t obtain a solid education, their chances of future employment and stability decrease. These school meals are more than just a blunder or injustice, it’s real lives and real futures at stake.
The long-term effects of development difficulties in children who are raised in poverty are extremely serious. A Save The Children report found that children growing up in poverty were twice as likely to have emotional and physical development difficulties. Indeed, particularly in school age children, an analysis outlined in an article by the BBC notes that poor diets for school-age children may contribute to an average height gap of 20cm (7.9in) between the tallest and shortest nations, a visual reminder of the ever growing gap and aching inequalities between the country’s richest and poorest.
This highlights a government that is entirely out of touch with its people. A government largely composed of the country's top 10% based on income who allege to represent the hundreds of families in the bottom income deciles. The Office for National Statistics (ONS) notes that families in the bottom income deciles spend over 40% of their weekly expenditure on household and food costs, compared to only 26% in the richest 10% deciles. And it is children who bear the brunt of the socio economic, health, and education inequality. A government so consumed by the notion of capitalism and privatisation and elitism that they seek a private company to source their free school meals care packages that quite simply wouldn’t feed one child sufficiently for more than a few days, let alone families of three or more.
According to the ONS, the average size of a family in the UK is 2.3, taken from the last UK Census data in 2011. Additionally, in another study, the ONS reports that families in the UK have an average weekly spend on food of around £60. The government’s new school meals care package scheme came after thousands of members of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH) signed an open letter urging the UK Government to change course on free school meals during the holidays. But the result of this plea for change was, when compared to typical supermarket prices, less than £10 of items tossed into bags, masked as a £30 care package.
The perfect example that the government is so entirely out of touch with its people is that under traditional Conservatism, free school meals is not on their agenda by choice — evident by their woeful execution. If the government were to provide care packages for the nation, rest assured there would not be an obesity crisis, but more a malnourished state of affairs. It begs the question, how equipped is the government, really, in attempts to tackle humanitarian disasters and famines abroad when they have such little concept of what society really needs?
As the government continues to feed capitalism's insatiable hunger, the children of our nation go hungry, families struggle to make ends meet and the supposed shrinking class divides in our nation only grow wider.