As I shared Marcus Rashford’s latest petition against child hunger, a friend rightly commented that it’s a national scandal that we are even having a debate about this issue. In one of the richest countries, it is estimated that eight million people regularly have trouble putting food on the table, and the current Covid-19 crisis has made that worse, with 50% of Trussell Trust foodbank users at the start of the pandemic having never needed one before.

Free school meals are a lifeline for many families that are struggling to make ends meet, but even that is precarious. The is no guarantee to a meal during the school holidays or if your child is self-isolating, which is why Marcus Rashford has called together the Child Food Poverty Taskforce, including many key retailers including the Co-op to call for national change. Part of that change includes increasing the number of people eligible for free school meals, extending them through the school holidays, and increasing the value of Healthy Start Vouchers, which provide fresh milk, fruit and veg to parents and pregnant women on low incomes.

These three key actions would make a huge step in tackling inequality, and a quarter of a million people have signed this petition so far, forcing a debate in Parliament.

As the co-op movement whilst we call for national action, we also believe in the power of local. To make the right decisions now to do what we can to alleviate child food poverty.

That’s why this week the Co-op Group wrote to the Prime Minister to inform him they would be funding free school meals during October half term for 5000 pupils at their schools, and the government should extend this offer to the remaining  1.4million children.

And in Wales, where Labour is in power, the Government has announced that free school meal provision will be extended to every school holiday until Easter 2021.

And in local government, our Councillors in opposition have been starting to make the case for powerful local action. We know from across the country that local authorities that have a food champion, a food network and a food partnership, provide the necessary and robust framework needed to tackle food poverty locally.

Cllr Su Aves in Devon, Cllr Jack Abbott in Suffolk and Cllr Kirsteen Sullivan in West Lothian have already persuaded their councils to take that step through motions as opposition Councillors. We do not have to wait for national action, as co-operators we can start to alleviate child food poverty in our area.

Read our campaign guide now and find out how you can act in your council.