Neil Coyle has rounded on Jacob Rees-Mogg after the Tory MP branded UNICEF’s emergency food grant for children in Southwark a ‘political stunt’.
On Wednesday UNICEF announced it was teaming up with the charity School Food Matters to fund 20,000 nutritious breakfasts for children in Southwark during the two-week Christmas holidays and February’s half-term.
More than 13,000 meals will be distributed throughout the borough with help from Premier Foods, Southwark Council, and Southwark Food Action Alliance.
The grant, in response to the COVID-19 crisis, is the first time UNICEF UK has mobilised a domestic emergency response and provided food aid in the UK.
In the House of Commons, Rees-Mogg said UNICEF should be ‘ashamed’ of the programme, describing it as ‘a political stunt of the lowest order’.
He went on to say that it was a ‘scandal’ that the money was being donated to children in Britain rather than developing countries.
Responding to Rees-Mogg’s comments, Bermondsey and Old Southwark Neil Coyle said the Tory MP could ‘not be more out of touch.
“Instead of condemning UNICEF for helping in Southwark, the government should examine why so many children need UNICEF help,” Coyle told the News.
“Rees-Mogg could not be more out of touch but I hope examines his conscience in the run up to Christmas and agrees to visit Southwark to see what his government’s policies have done to our community.”
Coyle has also penned a letter to Rees-Mogg, who is leader of the House of Commons, castigating him for his ‘lack of shame’ and inviting him to meet families in Southwark who will benefit from the grant.
“Charles Dickens used his memories of living in Southwark as inspiration for ‘A Christmas Carol’, which I’d recommend you read in order to observe the striking resemblance you bear to Scrooge before he amended his ways,” Coyle wrote.
UNICEF says there are 15,000 children in Southwark vulnerable to food poverty, and has described the pandemic as “the most urgent crisis affecting children since the Second World War”.
Even before COVID-19, an estimated 2.4 million children in the UK were growing up in households struggling with food insecurity.
Anna Kettley, Director of Programmes at Unicef UK, said: “This is Unicef’s first ever emergency response within the UK, introduced to tackle the unprecedented impact of the coronavirus crisis and reach the families most in need.
“The grant for School Food Matters will address the gap in current provision for children, providing approximately 1,800 children with breakfast bags during the Christmas holidays and February half term.
“This funding will help build stronger communities as the impact of the pandemics worsen, but ultimately a longer-term solution is needed to tackle the root causes of food poverty, so no child is left to go hungry”.
For more information visit https://www.schoolfoodmatters.org/projects/healthy-breakfast-boxes