Children's authors and illustrators ask government to think again over provision of free school meals

By staff writers
October 27, 2020

On Friday  23 October, over 200 children's authors and illustrators signed a letter condemning the govement's vote against extending the provision of free school meals to needy children during the half term break.

Conservative MPs rejected a Labour motion, inspired by Marcus Rashford’s campaign on child hunger, by 322 votes to 261. Rashford has urged MPs to unite and stop being influenced by “political affiliation”.

The letter was the idea of children's author Anne Booth. She said: "I was very shocked  about the Government voting against extending provision of free school meals in England, and tweeted that as a children's author I felt very upset at the thought that any of the children I wrote for could be hungry. Someone tweeted 'why don't you write an open letter?' I rang the Society of Authors to ask if there was already an existing response being organised but they didn't know of any, so I thought time was of the essence to support Marcus Rashford and put pressure on the government to u-turn, and it was worth a try to write a short letter quickly which writers and illustrators from all parties could sign and to try to get it into the papers for the next day."

Booth started to compile a list with help from Frank Cottrell Boyce. "He was able to contact the current Children's Laureate and some other writers. Clara Vulliamy the writer and illustrator and daughter of Shirley Hughes saw my tweet, signed the letter and asked her mother, and Philip Pullman, and so many other writers and illustrators wanted to sign, it just snowballed,  so by the time that I realised I had to send it off there were still people eager to sign. I just hoped that the text and the names would draw attention and give support to those asking the government to think again, and add a little more pressure. I was very impressed by the Guardian and the BBC and how quickly they responded, and hope it has helped raise awareness. There were about 220 [signatories]by the end and many more wanted to sign after it had been sent off". 

The text of the letter reads as follows:

We, the undersigned, all professionally write and/or illustrate books for children. Regardless of our individual  personal backgrounds, political and religious positions, we all recognise the unique position children and their families have been placed in because of this pandemic, and believe that no child in this nation should go hungry this winter. We believe children should not have to depend on potluck charity, and there should be  official organised government support across the nation to ensure no child  experiences the insecurity of hunger as well as the stress of the pandemic.

[Ekk/4]

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