Empty plate protest at MP Chris’s office
Messages outside Chris Skidmore’s office after the MP voted against a motion calling for the free school meals scheme to be extended
PROTESTERS left empty plates with messages for Emersons Green’s MP after he voted against a bid to extend the free school meals programme.
The plates, with messages including “no child should go hungry” and “have you no compassion?” were left outside Chris Skidmore’s Kingswood constituency office after he voted against an opposition motion to fund support for children from low-income families during the school holidays.
The protest in late October came before a U-turn from Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who announced that the Government would extend the support following a high-profile campaign led by Manchester United and England footballer Marcus Rashford.
South Gloucestershire Council had already pledged that it would use Emergency Assistance Grant funding to supply food parcels for the 4,212 children in the area eligible for free school meals, and cards with £20 pre-paid to buy food at supermarkets.
Protest co-organiser Jess Sharratt said around 60 plates were attached to the door and windows of Mr Skidmore’s office by protesters, who also donated a carload of food and money to local foodbanks.
Jess said: “We thought the empty plates were a powerful statement that conveyed a clear message.
“We watched in horror as the government voted against providing free school meals during holidays. There is no need for any child to go hungry at any time, but to do this during a global pandemic which has cost so many people their livelihoods seemed indefensible.”
Conservative Mr Skidmore said he had supported an alternative to the scheme proposed in the Labour motion.
He said: “Local councils know their communities best and where extra resource needs to be targeted to reach the most vulnerable, and this why I have voted to support extra government funding for South Gloucestershire Council, instead of expanding national programmes.
“During the recent half term, the council made use of the Emergency Assistance Grant funding and some of the extra £2 million funding from government to support local families eligible for free school meals with payment cards, as well as working with local suppliers and schools to provide food parcels. This benefited many hundreds of local children and their families who would otherwise be struggling.
“Since half-term the government has announced a further £570,000 in funding for the council to provide additional support to vulnerable children and families this winter. At least 80 per cent of the funding is earmarked to support with paying for food and bills and will cover the period to Spring 2021.”