U.K. Lawmaker Under Fire for Calling UNICEF’s Free Meals a ‘Political Stunt’

LONDON — Jacob Rees-Mogg, a Conservative British lawmaker who serves as chief of the Home of Commons, has provoked anger by criticizing a UNICEF program that’s set to offer free meals to kids in Britain for the primary time within the group’s 74-year historical past.

Mr. Rees-Mogg on Thursday accused the United Nations kids’s company of staging a “political stunt” and urged it to focus its efforts elsewhere after UNICEF mentioned it might serve meals to as much as 15,000 kids within the nation, principally in London.

“It’s a actual scandal that UNICEF needs to be enjoying politics on this means when it’s meant to be taking care of folks within the poorest, probably the most disadvantaged international locations of the world, the place individuals are ravenous, the place there are famines and the place there are civil wars,” he mentioned throughout a parliamentary session.

Mr. Rees-Mogg mentioned that UNICEF “needs to be ashamed of itself.”

UNICEF, which gives humanitarian and developmental support to kids in 190 international locations, has described the coronavirus pandemic as probably the most pressing disaster affecting kids since World Warfare II. In Britain, it has warned that on prime of the two.four million kids who had been already food-insecure, the state of affairs has worsened for a lot of extra households since March.

UNICEF mentioned this week that it had partnered with Maintain, a British meals and farming group, to succeed in 1000’s of youngsters, most of them in southern London. The kids will obtain breakfasts over the two-week Christmas break and throughout the February half-term break, the group mentioned, including that the operation would price $1 million.

Zarah Sultana, a Labour lawmaker whose query in Parliament led to Mr. Rees-Mogg’s feedback about UNICEF, reacted angrily to his response.

“It’s shameful for teenagers to go hungry” she mentioned. “It’s not shameful to feed them.”

UNICEF’s director of packages and advocacy in Britain, Anna Kettley, mentioned on Thursday that it was the group’s mission to assist the world’s poorest kids. She mentioned this system in Britain was a one-off response to assist susceptible kids and households throughout the pandemic.

“We consider that each baby is vital and deserves to outlive and thrive irrespective of the place they’re born,” she mentioned.

As Britain faces a recession deeper than another nation in Europe or North America, meals insecurity has been extensively publicized by Marcus Rashford, the 23-year-old soccer star who has helped feed tens of millions of youngsters within the nation this 12 months.

When the nation went right into a lockdown and colleges closed within the spring, Mr. Rashford started a campaign to donate meals for the 1.5 million kids in England who qualify free of charge faculty meals. He garnered assist all through the nation, and 1000’s of cafes, eating places, pubs and personal people have since donated meals or cash to charities.

Twice this 12 months, first in June and once more final month, Mr. Rashford additionally pressured Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s authorities to increase the free faculty meals program all through the vacations, at the same time as colleges reopened. The newest £170 million package ($230 million) plans to offer free meals to kids throughout Easter, summer season and Christmas breaks in 2021.

Most faculties in Britain have breakfast golf equipment, a before-class time through which kids who haven’t had an opportunity to eat at dwelling are provided porridge, eggs, toast and orange juice. Mr. Rashford has mentioned that he benefited from such free meals.

“I didn’t actually have an possibility however to go to breakfast membership,” he told The New York Times in Might.

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