Empty plate protest over Norwich MP’s vote not to extend free school meals
- Credit: Archant
Empty plates were left outside a political office as part of a protest over an MP’s vote not to extend free school meal vouchers to pupils at risk of going hungry during the holidays.
Protestors left messages of ‘shame on you’ outside the Norwich and Broadland Conservative Party office on Wednesday, October 29.
The demonstration was sparked by anger over Norwich North MP Chloe Smith, who was one of 322 Conservative MPs who voted against extending the voucher scheme, following a nationwide campaign by Premier League footballer Marcus Rashford.
It comes after a city foodbank revealed it had been inundated with more than £800 in donations following the vote last week, and followed similar protests outside Conservative MP Brandon Lewis’ office in Great Yarmouth.
Speaking after the protest, Broadland Labour councillor Natasha Harpley said: “It has been both heart warming and bittersweet to see local businesses stepping up where the government have refused to help.
“No matter the reasons for food poverty, it is never the child’s fault and no child should go hungry, nor should any politician vote to keep them hungry.”
She added: “I hope this peaceful demonstration sends a clear message to those with the power to make a difference and do the right thing by these innocent children.”
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While Labour city councillor for social inclusion, Karen Davis, added: “Empty plates are a visual representation of the holiday hunger that many children are now being subjected to, thanks to 322 Conservative MPs voting against extending the provision of free school meals to the holidays.”
Ms Davis, who represents Town Close ward and helps to run the NR2 Foodbank, added: “Chloe Smith was one of the 322 Tory MPs who voted to condemn children in her constituency and across the country, to more food poverty - a fact which I’m sure surprises precisely nobody.”
Ms Smith previously said it was “not for schools” to provide food to pupils during the holidays.
She said: “I agree that a safety net is needed to help children not go hungry - and it is provided.
“Universal credit, which the government has increased by £1,000 this year, provides support to families all year round.”
When approached for further comment, she said: “This is now party political posturing from Labour, perhaps to distract from what their own leader calls their ‘day of shame’ when the Equality and Human Rights Commission has 130 pages worth of Labour’s lawbreaking, harassment, discrimination, and failings to do with hatred of Jews.”
She added: “I’ve used my service as an MP to vote for more free school meals and help for those who need it. This government has expanded eligibility to more children than any other government in over fifty years.
“Norfolk County Council has had £1,015,631 this year to distribute food and other essential items locally.”