A local community alliance in Shadwell, have released a video petition addressed to the Rt Hon Gavin Williamson MP, the Secretary of State for Education, to ask the UK Government to include the supermarket chain Iceland in the Government’s Free School Meal voucher scheme, which supports low-income families during the pandemic whilst schools are closed.
‘Shadwell Responds’, is a community-led response to the Coronavirus crisis. The initiative includes churches, mosques, schools and TRA’s across Shadwell, many of whom are members of community organising alliance CitizensUK.
On behalf of Shadwell Responds, Father Richard Springer (St George in the East Church), Imam Ashiqur Rahman (Darul Ummah mosque) and Janice Hill (Family Learning Coordinator: Shapla School, St Paul’s Primary School, Harry Gosling Primary School, Mulberry Girls School), said: “Food insecurity is something affecting many families in our community at this difficult time. Whilst we are pleased that the voucher scheme is in place, we know that it is not working locally. Families are being forced to shop at more expensive stores or go without. We urge Iceland and the Government to work together with us to ensure no one in Shadwell goes Hungry.”
One member of the group said: ‘I normally shop at Iceland and the local Nisa - we do not have a car so the nearest supermarket in the scheme is Waitrose. At Iceland, I could feed the kids for the week on £15, but Waitrose is much more expensive, we have really struggled to buy enough. My children ask me for things in Waitrose and I have to say no.
The video letter, entitled ‘Don’t Freeze Iceland Out’ features testimony from local families, support from public figures, and children and adults from Shadwell, East London singing along to a version of the song from the Disney Movie Frozen, with new lyrics (see below).
Please let them in, let Iceland in
To the government free school voucher scheme
Don’t freeze them out, let Iceland in
Let them in.
Let us go, Let us go,
To Iceland for our food,
Let us go, Let us go,
We can’t afford other shops,
We need your help, because we are struggling
The storm rages on
This is the time for helping us
The campaign began with a petition on Change.org and two letters sent to Sir Malcolm Walker, the CEO of Iceland, and Gavin Williamson, on behalf of the 13 institutions in Shadwell and nine local head teachers.
Whilst Iceland was the original target of the campaign, in a letter received by Shadwell Responds, on behalf of Sir David Devanny, the Chief Customer & Digital Officer of Iceland, he wrote that although they would like to be included in the scheme, ‘The crux of the problem is that the Government chose a provider for the scheme - Edenred - whose technology is incompatible with our own.’
Local public figures are also backing the campaign. The Mayor of Tower Hamlets, featured in the petition video, has also written to Iceland urging them to join the scheme, and to the UK Government, as has the local Lib Dem Cllr, Rabina Khan.
Mayor John Biggs has said: “The Free School Meal voucher scheme is a lifeline for many families whilst schools are closed during this crisis, but for many their choices are limited and we need to ensure that vouchers can be used at nearby and affordable shops. This is particularly the case in the Shadwell area where many families rely on the Watney Market Iceland, and local community groups are working hard to ensure the vouchers are valid at the store.
The local MP for Poplar & Limehouse, Apsana Begum, the Bishop of Stepney, Joanne Grenfell, Deputy Mayor Rachel Blake, and local councillor Rabina Khan have also offered their support to their campaign, and feature in the video.
The group is also working to support the Shadwell community in a wide variety of ways including establishing a phone tree to maintain phone contact with people, a hardship fund, support for a new local food provision base at Darul Ummah mosque and a website with useful information and resources (www.shadwellresponds.org).
The group is awaiting a response from the Rt Hon Gavin Williamson MP.
For more information please contact: