Social Justice

Zayn Malik calls on Rishi Sunak to offer free school meals to all children in poverty

"No parent should have to make impossible decisions like whether to buy food, turn on the heating, or go into debt," the One Direction star said

free school meals/ zayn malik

Zayn Malik is the latest celebrity to back the Food Foundation's free school meals campaign. Image: Supplied

One Direction superstar Zayn Malik has written an open letter to Rishi Sunak calling for free school meals to be expanded to all children living in poverty.

The singer recalled his experiences growing up in Bradford as one of many children who relied on the scheme. 

“I personally experienced the stigma surrounding food insecurity,” he wrote. “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.”

Around 800,000 children living in poverty in England are not eligible for free school meals, according to the Food Foundation. As the country faces an escalating cost of living crisis, there are concerning reports of children eating rubbers and stealing food because they are so hungry. 

“These children are suffering from lack of concentration,” Malik, known by the name Zayn, said, “with 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. I know what that shame feels like.”

Malik follows other celebrities, most famously football star Marcus Rashford, in urging the government to ensure all children living in poverty are guaranteed a hot and nutritious lunch every day in school. 

Now a father himself, the singer is supporting the Food Foundation’s Feed the Future campaign which is calling for the expansion of free school meals to all children from households which receive universal credit. He said this would “stop children from enduring the worst of the cost of living crisis which in turn only creates bigger divides between the richest and poorest”. 

Research conducted as part of the campaign revealed expanding the free school meals scheme could generate billions for the economy. The charity has also revealed that 72 per cent of the English public support the expansion of free school meals to every child in a family on universal credit. 

Your support changes lives. Find out how you can help us help more people by signing up for a subscription

In his letter, Malik calls on the prime minister to “ act in good conscience” and commit to expanding the free school meals scheme in his November budget. 

“Parents are already doing everything they can, but government support is desperately needed,” Malik said. “No parent should have to make impossible decisions like whether to buy food, turn on the heating, or go into debt. Knowing that their children are getting a good lunch at school would be a huge relief to parents who are struggling. These pressures will only get worse as food and energy prices keep rising.”

Malik is becoming an ambassador at the Food Foundation and is encouraging fans to get involved in the Feed the Future campaign by writing to their MPs and sharing their thoughts on social media. 

Anna Taylor, the Food Foundation’s executive director, said: “Zayn’s music has touched the lives of many millions of people. We are thrilled to be working together on the campaign and that he is becoming an ambassador.  His own experiences as a child will resonate with many young people in Britain today whose voices go unheard.”

Get the latest news and insight into how the Big Issue magazine is made by signing up for the Inside Big Issue newsletter

Support the Big Issue

For over 30 years, the Big Issue has been committed to ending poverty in the UK. In 2024, our work is needed more than ever. Find out how you can support the Big Issue today.
Vendor martin Hawes

Recommended for you

View all
Energy bills are set to fall but UK families have already lost £72bn to 'staggering' prices
energy bills
Energy bills

Energy bills are set to fall but UK families have already lost £72bn to 'staggering' prices

Poverty costs the UK billions each year. Politicians must commit to ending it this general election
Trussell Trust food banks
General election 2024

Poverty costs the UK billions each year. Politicians must commit to ending it this general election

Abuse survivor tried to take her own life after years-long battle with DWP over disability benefits
Pound coins on a piece of paper with disability living allowancve
Department for Work and Pensions

Abuse survivor tried to take her own life after years-long battle with DWP over disability benefits

DWP under investigation over treatment of ill and disabled people after deaths of benefit claimants
Department for Work and Pensions

DWP under investigation over treatment of ill and disabled people after deaths of benefit claimants

Most Popular

Read All
Renters pay their landlords' buy-to-let mortgages, so they should get a share of the profits
Renters: A mortgage lender's window advertising buy-to-let products
1.

Renters pay their landlords' buy-to-let mortgages, so they should get a share of the profits

Exclusive: Disabled people are 'set up to fail' by the DWP in target-driven disability benefits system, whistleblowers reveal
Pound coins on a piece of paper with disability living allowancve
2.

Exclusive: Disabled people are 'set up to fail' by the DWP in target-driven disability benefits system, whistleblowers reveal

Cost of living payment 2024: Where to get help now the scheme is over
next dwp cost of living payment 2023
3.

Cost of living payment 2024: Where to get help now the scheme is over

Strike dates 2023: From train drivers to NHS doctors, here are the dates to know
4.

Strike dates 2023: From train drivers to NHS doctors, here are the dates to know