Fresh notes: Rashford, Oliver call for 'urgent review' of free school meal plan

School children healthy eating canteen

Football star Marcus Rashford and chef Jamie Oliver are among a large group of influential British celebrities and powerful voices who signed off on a letter to Prime Minister Boris Johnson asking for more funding toward Free School Meals for children.

The group - which includes Dame Emma Thompson, Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall and Tom Kerridge along with leaders from many organizations including 40 NGOs, the Food Foundation, School Food Matters, Feeding Britain and the Soil Association - is asking the UK government to revisit its policies and take the lead on "recommendations for the next Spending Review"

The Food Foundation and others have expressed concern for a large contingent of the four million children who are in poverty and may not be receiving those meals. Some 2.3 million children had some food insecurity as recent as the summer across the UK, and 850,000 families with kids went to food banks during that time.

"How our country’s most needy children are fed should be a top government priority," said Anna Taylor, Executive Director of Food Foundation. "School food has lurched from one crisis to another in the last few months. It’s time for a root and branch review to put in place the provision needed and help our children recover from the tragedy which this pandemic has inflicted."

The letter outlines action steps the government should take. In addition to looking at funding that provides for nutritious meals to all children, leaders are calling on government to review eligibility and enact mandatory monitoring of meal delivery within schools.

Tesco commits to small suppliers

Retailer Tesco says it has improved the times that its small suppliers will have to wait for their invoices to be paid - from two weeks to almost immediately. The new terms will go into 2022 and cover some 1,300 suppliers. 

“It’s vital we continue to do all we can to support the smallest suppliers we partner with throughout this uncertain time," said Chief Product Officer Ashwin Prasad. "I’m delighted we’ve been able to give them the long-term certainty they need, by extending these improved payment terms until the end of February next year.”

Morrisons agree to boost colleague pay

Another British supermarket, Morrisons, said it will became the first in the UK to "guarantee pay of at least £10 an hour." In April, nearly 100,000 of its colleagues will receive an average increase of 9%.

Currently, the retailer's minimum wages are £9.20 an hour. 

"The £10 an hour is a symbolic and important milestone that represents another step in rewarding the incredibly important work that our colleagues do up and down the country," said David Potts, Morrisons CEO, said. "Over the last year we have seen renewed and widespread appreciation in the UK for our colleagues who have had an incredibly tough 2020, working tirelessly so Britain could eat well and shop safely throughout the pandemic. Morrisons colleagues have earned their status as key workers, and this pay increase, many times over.” 

Morrisons is also raising rates for London employees by 25p per hour.

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