Mothers begin five-day hunger strike outside Parliament to highlight food poverty

10 March 2024, 15:00 | Updated: 10 March 2024, 15:16

A group of mothers begin a five-day hunger strike outside the Houses of Parliament
A group of mothers begin a five-day hunger strike outside the Houses of Parliament. Picture: Alamy/LBC

By Emma Soteriou

A group of six mothers have begun a five-day hunger strike outside Parliament to draw attention to parents who are unable to feed their children in the UK.

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The mothers taking part in the peaceful protest, which has been set up by Mother's Manifesto, are striking between Sunday and Thursday.

A meeting in Parliament to discuss next steps with MPs has been scheduled for Tuesday at 11.30am.

The group's demands include making sure all children in the UK have enough to eat by enforcing universal free school meals and universal credit to guarantee life's essentials, the government keeping its promises on foreign aid and climate change and the implementation of a loophole-free windfall tax on oil and gas companies' record profits.

It marks the second time the group has held a hunger strike after they protested outside Downing Street for six days from Mother's Day last year.

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Mothers Manifesto demo outside Parliament
Mothers Manifesto demo outside Parliament. Picture: LBC

Campaign organiser Emma Hopkins, 55, told LBC that "radical action" needs to be taken to ensure children are not starving to death.

"I can’t imagine how it must be as a mother to not be able to feed your children, let alone have your child starve to death," she said.

"This is something that is completely avoidable. Nobody needs to die from malnutrition, it’s not a disease, this is something that we can do something about.

"We’ve signed agreements to say that we will work towards a world where people are not hungry, where people are not starving by 2030, and we are just not going to meet that target.

"We need radical action in a positive direction so we can live in a world where children are not starving to death."

Explaining why the group had decided to start its action on Mother's Day, Ms Hopkins said: "I thought there would be something really poignant about holding it on a day when we celebrate mothers, and we celebrate what they stand for, which is around nurturing and caring.

"As mothers, we feel like we should be able to feed children and take care of them and actually, many mothers are not able to do that both in the UK and globally.

"I think it's absolutely shameful that so many people here in the UK are struggling to manage to feed themselves - we've got millions of children who are below the poverty line in one of the richest nations."

The strike is intended to draw attention to parents in the UK who are skipping meals to feed their children.
The strike is intended to draw attention to parents in the UK who are skipping meals to feed their children. Picture: Alamy

Ms Hopkins and the rest of the strikers, Chantelle Norton, Anna Palmer, Jessica Upton, Erika Curren and Nellie Crowdy, are being joined by an additional eight women who will only be striking for a minimised time due to their own circumstances such as health reasons or work commitments.

"We will sit outside Parliament with a table with empty plates and knives and forks," Ms Hopkins said.

"On the plates we have written a number of our demands and we're making hearts with children's names on to show our support for their future.

"I'm so excited for it, and it will really show how much mothers are struggling with feeding their children."

The mothers have written their demands on plates.
The mothers have written their demands on plates. Picture: LBC

Ms Hopkins organised a similar strike last year that led to a meeting at Parliament and support from 10 MPs.

"It was amazing, and we have also been in touch with other organisations, such as the Food Foundation - we're hoping to come together at some point for one big campaign," she said.

"At the strike, different people reacted differently - everybody was quite well, but one person was really poorly from not eating.

"I felt so connected with the reality for so many mothers and I think when you're not eating yourself, that hits you really hard.

"Luckily, my family have always been relatively comfortable but I'm absolutely heartbroken for those who are not."

A government spokesperson said: "We recognise households have struggled with food inflation, which is why the government has provided one of the most generous support packages in Europe to help vulnerable families.

"We have halved inflation, cut taxes and raised the National Living Wage so people have more money in their pockets.

"We have also provided support worth on average £3,800 per household, including raising benefits, unfreezing the Local Housing Allowance and helping people with essentials through the Household Support Fund.

"Since 2010 we have doubled the number of number of children receiving free school meals, lifted 1.7 million people out of poverty including 400,000 children by reducing the number of workless households and have a clear strategy to reach net zero by 2050 as we deliver a brighter future."

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