A CONSERVATIVE-run local authority is being pressed to call on the Government to conduct an urgent review of the threshold for Free School Meals to ensure no disadvantaged child is excluded.

Labour councillors Helen Crumbie and Wendy Newall, who represent Bank Top and Lascelles ward in Darlington, will also ask members of the borough council to lobby for a body to be created to monitor and tackle food insecurity over the long term.

The notice of motion to a full meeting of the authority follows the publication of a Food Standards Agency this week which found Covid-19 had led to an unprecedented rise in food insecurity, but also a potential improvement in eating habits among those who had more free time. It found the food insecurity rise had been driven by a reduction in income and less access to affordable food.

The agency’s chief executive Emily Miles said: “While some have seen eating habits improve, and potentially made life-long improvements to their diets, others have struggled to feed themselves and their families. All of us in government must now reflect on what this means for the future of food and public health.”

Meanwhile, research by the Food Foundation charity has found an estimated 14 per cent of households nationally, including 2.3 million children, experienced moderate or severe food insecurity in the six months following the start of the March 2020 lockdown.

Cllr Crumbie said the government’s holiday activity funds was only a temporary measure and food banks and surplus food distribution initiative The Bread and Butter Thing were masking the issue.

She said: “We are seeing a rise in people in people using food banks and schemes both locally and nationally we must conclude food poverty is rising.

“The Government must act now to address this for the long term.

“We must move away from short-term solutions and prioritise policies that will address the underlying causes of this issue.”