Members of Youth Parliament from across the UK gathered in Leeds to refine its campaign for universal free school meals. Over the weekend, members decided holiday hunger, quality of food, standardisation, financing and funding and additional pricing would be centered in the ‘Food for Learning’ Bill which will be drafted over the summer.
The new bill forms the next phase of their Food for Learning campaign which launched earlier this year following the UK Youth Parliament’s decision to focus on the cost of living and its impact on health and wellbeing of young people.
The three-day national conference at the University of Leeds was organised by the British Youth Council. The event forms part of the charity’s efforts to bring about social change through meaningful representation and campaigning. The conference provided young people with a space to debate with no political parties or adversarial opposition, but an independent vote and an emphasis on persuasion, consensus and researched arguments.
Members were joined by Stuart Andrew MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, who has repsonsibiltity for youth policy in government. During his time, he was able to witness the lively debates, address Members of Youth Parliament and listen to a select group about their experience of the programme.
Young people also heard from Lindsey Hoyle MP, Speaker of the House of Commons, Rosie Lockwood, Head of Media and Advocacy for IPPR North and Scotland, Emily Tabber, Union Affairs and Communications Officer for Leeds Universtity Union and Alan Tabern, Creative Director of Lung Low.
Codie Coghlan, age 16, Member of Youth Parliament for Preston said “I really enjoyed the opportunity to come together in Leeds with so many young people from across the country to debate, share ideas and plan our campaign for universal free school meals.
It cannot be right that so many children and young people experiencing poverty can’t access high quality nutritious meals. Our campaign is clear and its important decision makers take action on this vital issue.”
Callum Parr, who is part of the steering group that led the event said: “Each year the UK Youth Parliament’s Annual Conference demonstrates the passion from young people across the United Kingdom to see change in their local communities, and wider society.
“It has been truly inspiring to hear young people from all backgrounds talking so captivated about the effects of poverty on their peers. Young people have declared the cost of living crisis and its impact on health a priorty and call upon decision makers to take urgent and decisive action, to make a difference to those that need it.”
Members of Youth Parliament will develop the content and context of the Bill ahead of the House of Commons Sitting which is due to take place later this year.