Stoke-on-Trent’s single mother, Mizz, said her mind sank when the British government opened food packaging.
Not wanting to give her full name, Mizz told DW: “We were in trouble.” “I grew up poor and I know I’m poor. You can make a meal out of thin air, but this is not possible,” he said, 41. Mizz said her parcel was meant to serve a 10-day lunch for a 12-year-old: a loaf of bread, half a cucumber, a pepper, a few potatoes, a block of cheese, a pack of butter, four slices of fruit, chocolate. Bar and some salty snacks.
This parcel meant a week’s supply of food.
Mizz doesn’t have broadband, computers and smartphones, so homeschooling his son during the UK’s national blockade is already difficult. But without a nutritious meal, Mizz said her child is struggling to focus or learn in secondary school.
“I’m not ungrateful… but this makes you feel like nothing,” she said.
This image, posted on Twitter by a mother, caused anger in England.
Food parcels to keep children from hungry during closure
Mizz took part on Twitter with other parents posting pictures of the packages they received. This image has sparked widespread anger in Britain, one of the richest countries in the world, and the government urged Wednesday to change direction.
Food parcels for children eligible for free school meals in the UK replaced 15 (16.80 / $20.50) food coupons per child per week given to parents while schools were closed due to COVID-19 restrictions.
Labor lawmaker David Lammy compared a package taken by Twitter user @roadsidemum to a Finnish wheat bag.
Amid nationwide anger, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that the nationwide free meal voucher system would be restored on January 18th.
Chartwells, the company behind many catering parcels, issued an official apology and “agreeed to refund the school for unsatisfied parcels. [their] The company has signed a contract with the UK government to provide lockdown lunch jammers to 1.4 million children in the UK whose families meet income requirements.
‘Insult’ to the dignity of children and parents
Max Davie of Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health warned that the food shown in the image is “not nutritionally sufficient for children and adolescents.” In a statement on Tuesday, he called the package “an insult to the dignity of those who rely on this support.”
“Children deserve better than this,” tweeted footballer and activist Marcus Rashford, who received free meals as a child, calling for emergency action.
Food parcel policy change in anger
In a parliamentary speech on Wednesday, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson pledged that his government would do everything it could “to make sure children don’t get hungry”, and parents said, under the restored voucher plan, “the option to provide children with the food they need. I said I would have.
In 2020, Johnson and fellow Conservative party lawmakers rejected a similar plan to provide meal tickets to parents during school breaks, but they tried to reverse the decision a few days later.
In response to news of the government’s tack change on Wednesday, campaigner and chef Jack Monroe tweeted, “We did it !!!Thank you!!!!”
But Labor leader Keir Starmer said in a prime minister’s question at the British Parliament that “social media should not be taken to shame the prime minister.”
Mizz, the mother of Stoke-on-Trent in England, spoke with DW about the food parcel she received.
Punishment for poverty
The return of the voucher plan gives Mizz a welcome relief, but it’s not enough to stop her family from hungry. “We are not living,” she said. “We just exist.”
Mizz survives on 62 days per week, mostly with government benefits. As a trade guard, she wasn’t able to work with bars that were closed by COVID-19 regulations from March 2020. Since then, she has applied for 138 jobs without success and has even sold her television.
The wealth and income gap in the UK has widened in recent years. The proportion of children in the UK at risk of poverty or social alienation in the UK is well above the EU average, and experts warn that the COVID-19 pandemic will exacerbate existing inequality.
This is what Mizz experienced firsthand. “My children seem to have failed,” she said with tears. “I don’t want to grow up thinking this is normal.”
Mizz is looking forward to a better 2021, but hesitates to be too optimistic. “We are the minions at the bottom of the ladder,” she said. “It seems to be being punished for being poor.”
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