The organization said a government-commissioned voucher system for those who normally receive free school meals was “plagued with problems” and “deeply flawed”
The coronavirus pandemic and subsequent closure of schools in England has exposed "shocking levels" of childhood hunger, according to a Human Rights Watch (HRW) statement released on Wednesday.
HRW's statement criticized the British government's "failure" to ensure all pupils had sufficient food while schools remain closed, reports the CNN.
They also added that the lapse "violates" a child's "right to food."
The organization said a government-commissioned voucher system for those who normally receive free school meals was "plagued with problems" and "deeply flawed."
The electronic vouchers are designed to enable families to buy meals at selected supermarkets. The scheme began two weeks after schools closed in mid-March, and some families reported waiting weeks to receive the vouchers, HRW said.
A May 4 survey by the Food Foundation estimated that 200,000 children had to skip meals by the end of April, and 31 percent of children entitled to free school meals "did not have adequate alternatives."
HRW has called upon the UK Department of Education to "urgently address" flaws in the voucher scheme, and also transition to a cash transfer system "that offers families and children great dignity."
On May 26, a representative for the department told HRW that "no system of this magnitude to provide free school meals has been implemented in such a short period of time before." They added that authorities and the voucher company had worked hard to reduce waiting times and improve the voucher ordering process.