On Friday 17th November, UK Youth Parliament will debate universal free school meals and food security for young people as part of their campaign, ‘Food for Learning’. More than 200 Members of Youth Parliament from across the UK will participate in the House of Commons debate, which forms part of their proposed solutions to extending free school meals.
The event, which is their twelfth sitting, will see representatives debate the issues they will prioritise for the remainder of the ‘Food for Learning’ campaign. The campaign, which is due to culminate early next year, is coordinated by the British Youth Council in partnership with the Child Poverty Action Group.
Campaigners began their calls for universal free school meals following their previous sitting in the House of Commons which concluded the cost of living crisis was the most pressing issue affecting young people’s mental health and wellbeing.
The topics being debated were chosen by Members of Youth Parliament at UK Youth Parliament’s Annual Conference over the summer, and will unfold in the following order:
Morning session 11:00am -12:50pm
- Holiday Hunger – Create provisions to ensure young people have access to meals outside of term time.
- Quality of Food – School meals should be made using good, healthy and nutritious ingredients and no ultra-processed foods.
- Speeches from Youth Representatives from British Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies.
Afternoon session 1:40pm- 4:00pm
- Standardisation – Ensure young people all have access to the same quality and volume of food in schools.
- Financing & Funding – Create arrangements to fund school meals.
- Additional Pricing – Ensure the prices of any additional food are reasonable and consistent across the UK.
The morning session will be presided over by the Speaker of the House of Commons, Lindsay Hoyle MP, with the afternoon sessions chaired by Deputy Speaker of the House of Commons, Nigel Evans MP. At the close of debates, Members of Youth Parliament will vote for or against each of the five Chapters to determine which is prioritised during the final phase of campaign activity. The debates will be streamed live, with a 20 minute delay, on parliamentlive.tv.
Dylan Rees-Coshan, Member of Youth Parliament for Bournemouth, Christchurch & Poole, said “Members of Youth Parliament will take over the Commons chamber to debate the food related concerns of young people in the UK.
“These issues have been carefully considered and are thought to be the most effective and achievable ways of ensuring extended provision of free school meals are something the UK Government can implement. It’s imperative that young people’s views on food insecurity are taken seriously into account by decision-makers, and we hope our debate will showcase this.”
Youth representatives from the UK Overseas Territories have been invited to address the chamber on the subject of equality. The Speaker of the House of Commons, Sir Lindsay Hoyle, said “It is so important that we, as politicians, hear the views of young people, which is why I am really looking forward to chairing this year’s UK Youth Parliament.
“For the first time ever, we will hear from representatives of the Crown Dependencies of Jersey, Guernsey and the Isle of Man – alongside their colleagues from the UK Overseas Territories.”
Members of Youth Parliament are due to be joined by a government minister, Rt. Hon. Stuart Andrew MP, Minister for Sport, Gambling and Civil Society, and John Nicolson MP, SNP Spokesperson for the DCMS, who will speak from the despatch box in recognition of the UK Youth Parliament’s Food for Learning campaign. Other MPs may join throughout the event. Rt. Hon. Stuart Andrew MP previously attended the UK Youth Parliament Annual Conference back in the summer. Speaking about the debate in the Commons Chamber, he said: “I am delighted to be attending the UK Youth Parliament House of Commons sitting this year to hear directly from young people on the issues that they care about the most.
At DCMS, a key priority of mine is embedding youth voice at all levels of decision making. Our National Youth Guarantee is providing young people with access to activities, adventures away from home and volunteering in direct response to the findings from our 2021 review, which engaged around 6,000 young people across England.”
Following the sitting, Members of Youth Parliament will campaign on the issues they vote as their priority. They will also conclude their year-long efforts to draft their Parliamentary bill.
UK Youth Parliament is part of the British Youth Council’s Youth Voice programme which is delivered with the support of regional youth work units, local authorities, UK Parliament and Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.