EastEnders and Coronation Street icon Michelle Collins, 60, headed to Downing Street on Thursday to ask the government to follow Wales and Scotland in rolling out free school meals to all primary school children.
As it stands, older primary school pupils in England only qualify for free meals if their family takes home less than £7,400 every year.
Michelle was joined at Number 10 by Barnardo’s CEO Lynn Perry MBE and young people who have been supported by the charity.
On why this petition means so much to her, Michelle told Express.co.uk: “I’ve been an ambassador for Barnardo’s for a long time now and it is something that I feel very passionate about.
“I think it helps being a mum myself and I have quite a few friends who are teachers, so I hear a lot about what’s going on with them.
“I remember when I was a kid, there was a real stigma around free school dinners.
“There were two queues and my mum never wanted us to go in that queue.
“My mum worked really hard and had like three jobs, but she didn’t want to have that humiliation, which there was in those days and there is still a stigma about it now.”
Michelle said passionately that “every child should have a hot, nutritious meal every day” and lamented that many parents, even those on Universal Credit “don’t fit the criteria to qualify for free dinners and they are struggling to pay because of the current economic crisis”.
She continued: “A school day is a long day and my friends who are teachers are telling me that kids are falling asleep, their concentration levels are very bad, and it would be so much easier if every kid just got a free school meal and everyone had it at the same time.
“We’re a G7 country, we should not have children in poverty and children shouldn’t be going hungry, it’s wrong.”
As for the argument that there isn’t enough funding to roll out free school meals to all primary school kids, Michelle says “it’s about managing the budget” and “spending less on other things that we don’t need”.
She concluded: “These are our children that we are investing in, and it is important.
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For more information about the campaign visit: https://www.barnardos.org.uk/
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