A Plaid Cymru MS has blasted Jacob Rees-Mogg for attacking a Unicef project supported by Marcus Rashford, that is feeding children in Wales.
Plaid Cymru Member of the Senedd for North Wales, Llyr Gruffydd, called the Tory politician “out of touch” after he said charity should be “ashamed” of itself for funding projects to feed hungry children across the UK, including Good Food Flintshire.
The Unicef project, ‘Food Power for Generation Covid’, is joint initiative with Sustain, the alliance for better food and farming, and this is the first time in its history that the organisation has felt it necessary to support groups in the UK.
The charity has awarded grants to 30 UK community projects to support vulnerable children and their families during the crisis, and it hopes to reach between 10,000 and 15,000 young people.
Mr Gruffydd said: “Unicef’s decision to fund food programmes in Flintshire and elsewhere in the UK is a damning indictment of 10 years of Tory cuts and austerity.
“To have privileged public schoolboys like Jacob Rees-Mogg criticise the funding also reveals how out of touch Westminster is from the very real poverty and problems facing many communities in Wales.”
Mr Rees-Mogg made his comments after the issue was raised in the House of Commons by Labour MP Zarah Sultana.
Ms Sultana criticised the UK Government and told Mr Rees-Mogg that “for the first time ever” Unicef has judged it necessary to “feed working-class kids in the UK”.
Hedge fund co-founder Rees-Mogg said: ‘I think it is a real scandal that Unicef should be playing politics in this way when it is meant to be looking after people in the poorest, the most deprived, countries in the world where people are starving, where there are famines and where there are civil wars, and they make cheap political points of this kind, giving, I think, £25,000 to one council. It is a political stunt of the lowest order.
“What has this Government done about child poverty? We are committed to our manifesto pledge to reduce child poverty.
“We have expanded free school meals to all five to seven year olds, benefiting 1.4million children.
“We are spending £400million of taxpayers’ money to support children, families and the most vulnerable over Winter and through 2021.
“Since 2010 to 2018/19 there are 100,000 fewer children in absolute poverty in this country. This a record of successive conservatism and Unicef should be ashamed of itself.”
‘We doubled free childcare for eligible working parents and will establish a £1billion childcare fund, giving parents the support and freedom to look after children.
England International Footballer and Child Food Poverty Campaigner, Marcus Rashford, said:
“Unicef UK’s emergency response is vital for our most vulnerable communities. Given the impact of the pandemic, families are struggling more than ever to put food on the table.
“We must keep fighting for a long-term sustainable solution to combating child food poverty in the UK. We must prepare and equip all children to succeed in their adult lives and that work starts now, by stabilising households and building out an effective food access foundation.”
Anna Kettley, Director of Programmes at Unicef UK, said: “The pandemic has turned the lives of children and families upside down and for many the continued impact of the pandemic will be increasing financial worries.
“Many Local Authorities and many disadvantaged families across the UK who will require access to this fund over the Winter period. As such, it is critical that these funds are targeted to the children who are most in need.
“Community initiatives will play an essential role and through ‘Food Power for Generation Covid’ we hope to support families at the local level so that children can continue to eat well during this crisis period.”
Simon Shaw, Head of Food Poverty Programme at Sustain, said: “All over the UK local food poverty alliances and food partnerships have been taking action to ensure local people have access to food during the Covid-19 pandemic.
“This partnership with Unicef UK comes at crucial point in the midst of heighted Covid restrictions when many individuals’ resources will be depleted. Local alliances are well-placed to support their communities over the next few months and to reach those who have been hardest hit.”
Simon Shaw, Head of Food Poverty Programme, Sustain: “This funding is supporting a diverse range of community-level responses in Cardiff and Flintshire which aim to reach children and families at higher risk in different ways. Importantly, these projects are linked into their local food poverty alliance or food partnership ensuring a coordinated and targeted approach.”