Poverty is about more than food; it is about the choices politicians make. We have to ask why in 2020 parents don’t have the means by which they can feed their children. But as one of the richest countries in the world, we also have to ask why 14.5 million people (including 4.2 million children and two million older people) are living in poverty.

Footballer Marcus Rashford asked that question: through his powerful testimony of growing up in poverty he has forced the nation to confront this reality.

Something like 2.3 million children are believed to claim free school meals, this number having surged by 900,000 during the pandemic. Many families still don’t access their entitlement.

These children are not just statistics: this is a story of how deep-seated poverty denies the most vulnerable the most basic of rights - the right to food.

Not to provide food in the school holidays is a political choice. Labour brought forward a debate and vote in the House of Commons for school dinners to be funded during holidays, as in Wales and Scotland. It costs just £15 per child.

The Conservatives voted against the motion and since, we have witnessed loyal Government ministers tour the media studios to justify their actions.

Times are really hard. Foodbank use in York rose by almost 300 per cent at the start of the pandemic. We have 2,728 children in our city who receive free school meals. But when schools are closed or children have to isolate, family budgets are strained all the more.

I have supported so many families over the last few months that depend on the lifeline of a hot nutritious school meal. If it isn’t there, then it is often the parents who go without to make sure their children have something to eat.

Covid-19 was the curve ball that shattered our fragile, insecure economy, but it was the decade of austerity before that failed to address the underlying inequality dividing our country. Low wages, insecure work, a failed social security system and now a new wave of unemployment is plunging people into new levels of poverty.

The mismanagement of the Government’s handling of Covid-19 is causing businesses to fold and jobs to tumble. I welcome the Chancellor’s 11th-hour rescue package, but it is far too little too late. Had they invested in a proper test and trace system from Day One, the virus would have been locked down, not people and jobs. Instead, our communities are paying a heavy price.

Through these difficult times, we must join together and support each other. I have never been more proud to represent our city. York is a city of people who are compassionate, who do not hold back their generosity and who give their time to help their neighbours; it is what we do.

At the start of the pandemic, The Supper Collective sprang up to provide high quality nutritious meals to people. Taxis and cycle couriers turned up to donate their time, while food outlets cooked. Community hubs were set up so people could access vital supplies and services.

From the people who drop additional items into Foodbank collection points to those who hand them out with such warmth and care, we can all be proud that we are part of a caring city.

As the Government digs in, Labour is stepping up. Locally we have called for everyone to have access to one hot nutritious meal a day in the city. I spoke last week in Parliament on the ‘Right to Food’, calling for this to be supported in domestic legislation. The UK has agreed many international treaties calling for this, but the Government has failed to act on these commitments.

Parliament’s own Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee has asked Government to consult on a right to food: again, no action. In taking evidence, Professor of Food Poverty Tim Lang stated that “if you do not have it in legislation, you do not have indicators and it does not happen.” Similarly, the representative from the National Food Strategy, Anna Taylor said that if these measures were in place, then we would “not be in the situation we have now with such high levels of unmet need”.

No one should go hungry, but when a Government deliberately fails to support those in most need, people, and tragically, children, do.

Half term is just a week. Christmas is coming up, and it will be an additional stress and challenge to some. We must ensure that, with the inspiration of Marcus Rashford as an example, we look out for each-other and every child as the festive season approaches.