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Women begin hunger strike outside parliament to demand free school meals

A group of women have begun a five-day hunger strike outside parliament to highlight the plight of thousands of mothers who are struggling to feed their children.

The women, who braced the rain in central London on Sunday, said they are doing so to demand all children have access to free school meals.

In their published Mother's Manifesto, they highlight that many mothers are currently skipping meals to ensure their kids don't go hungry.

Rosie Holtom, 42, said she would usually wake up on Mother's Day to breakfast in bed made by her four-year-old son and partner - but there was no breakfast this year as she joined the hunger strike.

"Today we have come out in solidarity with mothers in this county going without food," Ms Holtom said.

"It's shocking. As a mum all you want to do is provide for your child and do the best you can do. All mums know how much children can eat. Imagine not being able to provide a snack for your child, or having to watch them starve."

According to 2022 figures from the Food Foundation charity, 25.8% of households with children had experienced food insecurity within the past month, affecting an estimated four million children in the UK.

The women taking part in the peaceful protest want to ensure all children have enough to eat by enforcing free school meals and universal credit to guarantee life's essentials.

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Emma Hopkins, 55, who organised the protest, said: "I'd say that we're facing multiple crises at the moment, in terms of the climate, ecological and social crisis.

"But, the future is not set - we can change the future and we know we can and that we must.

"This is why we're doing this action, because we want to make a future when no child goes hungry, and when no child starves to death."

The women taking part said it's not just an issue in this country but a global one, and called on the government to keep its promises on foreign aid, climate change and the implementation of a loophole-free windfall tax on oil and gas companies' record profits.

Rahella Cutting Benmeir, 53, is British Israeli and said it's "not possible to perceive that one in four families are struggling to feed their children in a country that has all the resources".

She also highlighted the food insecurity currently ongoing in the Middle East, and said starvation is being used "as a weapon."

The women taking part in the protest, set up by Mother's Manifesto, plan to strike without food from Sunday to Thursday, with a meeting in parliament to discuss the next steps with MPs scheduled for Tuesday at 11.30am.