Bishops add weight as more than 100 MPs back holiday hunger bill

Bishops are adding their weight to a bill that aims to tackle summer holiday hunger among children who would otherwise receive free school meals.

The third most senior figure in the Church of England, the Bishop of Durham, alongside the Bishop of Liverpool backed the move introduced by Labour MP Frank Field.

Trussell Trust figures published last month showed the increased use of foodbanks during summer months with 4,412 more three-day food parcels given out nationally in July and August than the previous two months.Photo: The Trussell Trust

Signed by more than 100 MPs, the bill suggests using 10 per cent of the money raised by a sugary drinks tax to force councils to provide food and activities for children who would otherwise go without.

Paul Butler, Bishop of Durham, called it a 'serious' and 'sensible' idea.

'The sad reality of how hard it is for some families to make ends meet during school holidays is one that we have sought to engage with as a diocese, alongside others,' he said. 'This Bill offers a serious way forward. It will clearly require specific funding and using some of the 'sugary drinks levy' would be a sensible way forward.'

The Bishop of Durham Paul Butler is the third most senior figure in the Church of EnglandPicture By Keith Blundy

He joined Paul Bayes, the Bishop of Liverpool, who said Field's proposal was a 'sensible, practical response which deserves full support'.

He said: 'I see and hear stories across our region of desperate families turning to our hard-pressed foodbanks over the summer when parents can no longer rely on free school meals. And this comes precisely when foodbank donations have fallen because of the holiday period; a double whammy for the desperate.

He added: 'Sticking-plasters are not enough; we need a structural solution for our kids. This bill offers one simple, well-costed and practical way in which our political leaders can give proper support to the hungry children of our nation.'

The School Holidays (Meals and Activities) Bill has won support from MPs across the Commons and will be presented when they return from summer recess next Tuesday.

As well as dozens of Labour MPs several senior Conservatives have signed the bill, calling on Theresa May to back it.

Committed Christian Nicky Morgan, Sir Oliver Letwin and Jeremy Lefroy are among the Tory signatories after the all party group on hunger, chaired by Frank Field, unearthed fresh evidence of the number of children suffering from a lack of food in holiday.

Field said: 'If the Prime Minister were to pick up this bill and run with it, at nil extra cost to the Government, she would tackle overnight one of the great injustices afflicting children in this country: a widening of inequalities at school caused by a lack of food during the holidays. Likewise she would immediately be cutting off one of the main supply routes to food banks.'

It comes after Trussell Trust figures published last month showed the increased use of foodbanks during summer months with 4,412 more three-day food parcels given out nationally in July and August than the previous two months.

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