Food poverty charity removes MPs from board after trustee votes against extending free school meals

Feeding Britain plans to split governance structure with creation of new ‘parliamentary council’

A food poverty charity founded by MPs has split its governance structure in two in order to remove eight parliamentarians from its trustee board.

Feeding Britain made the move after one of its trustees, Jo Gideon, Conservative MP for Stoke-on-Trent Central, last week voted against a motion to support footballer Marcus Rashford’s campaign to extend the free school meal programme to cover school holidays.

The motion to provide disadvantaged children in England with £15 a week in food vouchers during school holidays until Easter was rejected by 322 votes to 261 with a government majority of 61. 

Feeding Britain, which was founded in 2015 by a cross-party group of MPs and peers concerned about rising levels of hunger and food bank use in the UK, now plans to remove all MPs as trustees. 

Instead the charity will create a 'parliamentary council' to enable parliamentarians to continue to support its work.

MPs and members of the House of Lords, including Gideon, accounted for eight of the 12 trustees listed on the charity's website on Tuesday morning. Gideon and some other MPs were removed from the list yesterday afternoon. 

In a statement, the charity’s national director, Andrew Forsey, told Third Sector that its trustees had met on Monday to review the charity’s governance structure. 

“They decided to proceed with the creation of two separate bodies: a cross-party parliamentary council of MPs and Peers to deploy the findings of Feeding Britain's work in pursuit of systemic change that will eliminate hunger and its root causes; and the charity itself, which will no longer have MPs on its board of trustees,” Forsey said. 

When asked whether Gideon would be a part of council, he said the structure and membership of the board would be determined at a later stage.

“An immediate priority, on which much work has already been undertaken, is to secure from the government a multi-year commitment to a national rollout of the Holiday Activities and Food Programme, which was piloted in response to Feeding Britain's work on holiday provision,” he said. 

“The national rollout of the programme, beginning at Christmas, would make a major contribution to the elimination of child hunger.”

Gideon issued a 1,200 word statement on her Facebook page explaining why she had voted against the Labour motion.

“This motion had no legal standing and opposition days are used as political tools to make the governing Party look nasty and to grab headlines,” she said. 

Gideon said that the move to provide free school meals through the summer holiday, prompted by Rashford’s campaign, had been right, but that “these were exceptional times”. 

She went on to say: “Nobody has said that children should go hungry and any suggestion that an MP would think so is deeply divisive, unhelpful and utterly misleading. 

“The vote was to determine whether the provision for children’s meals outside of term-time falls to schools or the Government. The responsibility for feeding children lies with parents and guardians, and where not possible, the state, through cash grants to local charities and councils to help the most vulnerable however they see fit, eg food parcels.”

Gideon is chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Food Strategy. She said she had offered to work with all English MPs on the issue.

“This issue must be above politics. These families and children deserve better than to be relegated to a political football,” she said. 

Topics:
Governance

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