The Archbishop of Canterbury has urged Boris Johnson to stop "politicising" child poverty as Christian leaders back Marcus Rashford's free school meals campaign.
Manchester United and England footballer Rashford was made an MBE in the Queen's birthday honours list following his efforts to ensure that children in need received meals across the summer.
The 22-year-old forced a Government U-turn on free school meal vouchers for eligible pupils over the summer after speaking out about how similar schemes had helped him as a child.
He is calling for free school meals to be extended until the end of the year.
The Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Rev Justin Welby, along with the Archbishop of York and other Christian leaders, has written to Mr Johnson to call for the establishment of a cross-party commission to tackle child poverty.
The letter says: "In this second wave of the coronavirus pandemic and what will no doubt be a difficult winter for many, we are writing as faith leaders about our growing concerns about hunger and poverty, especially among children.
"With the help of Marcus Rashford's inspiring campaign, the pandemic has brought the issue of child hunger and poverty into the light.
"However, this is not a new problem. The rising use of food banks, most of them run by churches, synagogues, temples, gurdwaras and mosques, is the extreme and visible manifestation of a much broader and deep-seated problem."
Data recently published by the End Child Poverty campaign showed that, in 2018-19, 30 per cent of UK children were in poverty, defined as being in households with incomes of less than 60 per cent of the median after subtracting housing costs.
In England, 31 per cent of children were below the breadline, compared with 28 per cent in Wales, 25 per cent in Northern Ireland and 24 per cent in Scotland.
The letter added: "Instead of politicising this issue and arguing over individual policies, we urgently need to establish a cross-party commission with the mandate and resources to tackle child poverty in England, once and for all."
A Government spokesperson said: “We are committed to making sure every child gets the best start in life, and this is central to our efforts to level up opportunity across the country.
“That’s why we have raised the living wage, ended the benefit freeze and funded free childcare in addition to allowing up to 85% of childcare costs to be claimed back on Universal Credit. This is on top of £9.3 billion extra welfare support during the coronavirus pandemic.”