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Concerns that Covid-19 restrictions are leaving poorer children with “very little to eat” have been raised in the Scottish Parliament.

The Scottish government has said it will investigate, after learning of the concerns on the day that it published an update on its Tackling Child Poverty Delivery Plan.

Highlands and Islands Labour MSP Rhoda Grant, speaking yesterday, said: “Constituents are telling me that children who are entitled to free school meals are receiving very little to eat for lunch in school due to Covid restrictions – one child had received a quarter sandwich and a little piece of cheese.

“For many children, a free school meal is the only hot, wholesome meal that they will receive all day. Will the Scottish government now legislate for a right to food? Will it also ensure that all children now receive an adequate and wholesome school meal?”

Aileen Campbell, the communities and local government secretary, said in response: “We have taken proactive steps over the past five months to make sure that food insecurity is tackled. From memory, we have, to date, committed over £100 million to that, which included ensuring that young people could access free school meals over the summer months.

“We did that precisely because of the points that Rhoda Grant raised about ensuring that people can get nutritious meals when they need them, because that might be the only time when they can access food. I am therefore concerned to hear about those reports from Rhoda Grant and I would be keen to know a bit more, if she were able to engage with us on that.”

Ms Campbell added: “We see school meals as being really important; that is why the government legislated to give children in primaries 1 to 3 free school meals, why we committed to ensuring that we tackle food insecurity and why we take a rights-based approach. All of that together shows our commitment to ensuring that people do not suffer the challenges of food insecurity.

“Of course, that comes back to poverty and that is why we need to tackle it in the round.”


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