Former One Direction star Zayn Malik has called on Prime Minister Rishi Sunak to provide free school meals for “every child in poverty in England” as the cost of living crisis continues.
Posting on Instagram last night, the singer told the PM that “no child should have to suffer the trauma and stigma of hunger & poverty”.
He said in his letter: “I am writing to share my concern about the struggles children are living through because of the cost-of-living crisis and to ask for your help to ensure no child living in poverty misses out on a hot nutritious meal at school especially since that school may be the only hot meal they receive all day.”
“We are all aware that the difficulties facing families right now are profoundly serious. Four million children live in households who experienced food poverty in September 2022. In addition, 800,000 children in England miss out on a Free School Meal even though they are living in poverty.”
He added: “These children are suffering from lack of concentration, some even resorting to stealing food from school canteens because they are so hungry but can’t afford to buy lunch. They are also feeling shame which is directly impacting their physical and mental health.”
The singer, who grew up in Bradford, West Yorkshire, went on to recount the shame he suffered while receiving free school meals when he was young.
“I relied on Free School Meals,” he wrote. “I personally experienced the stigma surrounding food insecurity.”
He added: “My hope is that in writing this letter we can all ensure that no child ever has to experience this hunger and stigma again as my experience is not unique; it is a struggle that many children in England are sadly going through right now.
“As I see it, extending the current threshold and giving Free School Meals to children from families on Universal Credit would be the best way to reach those who need it most.”
Calling for change in the upcoming budget, Malik added: “As Prime Minister, you have the power to change this. Please act in good conscience and commit in your Budget on 17th November to giving all children living in poverty a Free School Meal. Children going hungry is not inevitable and should not come down to a political issue or ideology.”
Some 1.9million children in England are currently eligible to receive free school meals – which is 22.5 per cent of all pupils.
Under current rules, children in academic years three and above only qualify if they live in a household that receives income-related benefits, while an annual income must be no higher than £7,400.
Malik’s last solo album came in 2021’s Nobody Is Listening.