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Marcus Rashford has hit out at a headteacher that told parents their children would not be fed at lunch if they are more than a penny in debt to the school.
In a letter to parents from Neil Foden, the strategic head of Ysgol Dyffryn Nantlle, in Penygroes, Gwynedd, parents were told the school cook had been instructed “not give food to any child from 22 November” if they still had a debt to the school.
The letter read: “I was very surprised to learn at the end of the last half term that there was an unexpected deficit in our school meals budget. Closer inspection revealed that this was because a handful of pupils had run up debts totalling more than £1,800.
“Unfortunately, this means that I have had to take the following steps. All debts over £10 will be transferred to the authority and parents will be invoiced by the council. All debts of over £0.01 will receive a message from the school to clear debts and credit the system by Friday, November 19.
“The cook has been instructed not to give food to any child from November 22nd if the debt has not been cleared, or, in the future, to children whose accounts do not have enough money to pay for lunch.”
After the letter from Mr Foden was shared online, Manchester United footballer Rashford took to Twitter to share his disdain for the school’s decision.
He said: “Has the pandemic not taught us anything? Can we not be understanding? Come on now. For many children, lunch at school is the only meal they’ll get.”
For many children, lunch at school is the only meal they’ll get… https://t.co/UJu8C7Urxr
— Marcus Rashford MBE (@MarcusRashford) November 11, 2021
In an interview with the BBC, Mr Foden said that around 70 pupils owed money to the school - with nine parents owing more than £50 and a further three more than £100.
A deadline of 19 November has been set for parents to pay back the money owed to the school.
“I am sorry that we have had to take these steps but the scale of the default means that something clearly has to be done,” the letter said.
It was met with fury online, with Twitter users branding the decision “disgusting”, “wicked” and “chilling”.
As a former school governor I find this absolutely chilling..feed the rich, starve the children 😔 https://t.co/vpaoQZJMlK
— Kate 💙💚 (@kateycon) November 11, 2021
Absolutely disgusting!! Where is the compassion, the community or the care?! Children should ALWAYS be fed!! https://t.co/S0ZBzyWF2L
— Lynn Roberts 💚 (@Lynettaa) November 11, 2021
In a statement given by Mr Foden following the uproar, he confirmed that pupils from the most financially disadvantaged homes are automatically given daily allowance for free school meals.
He said: “Any parent in genuine financial difficulty should write to their child’s Head of Year in order that we may see how best to assist.
“We understand that many families have experienced financial difficulty during the pandemic and we are not unsympathetic.
“However, any shortfall in the budget for school meals will have to be made up by the school which could mean fewer books and resources for all pupils because of debts run up by a few.”
Gwynedd Council has been approached for comment but told the BBC that anyone “having difficulty” paying for school meals should get in touch.