Boris Johnson has defended his refusal to extend free school meals for children in England over the half-term holiday, saying he was “very proud” of the government’s support so far.
“I totally understand the issue of holiday hunger,” he said. “The debate is, how do you deal with it.”
He said the government will “do everything in our power to make sure that no kid, no child goes hungry”.
Pressure has risen on the PM, including from his own MPs, to rethink the issue.
Mr Johnson also said he had not spoken to Manchester United footballer Marcus Rashford – who has been leading a high-profile campaign to extend free school meals into the holidays – since the summer.
The UK government extended free school meals to eligible children during the Easter holidays earlier this year and, after Rashford’s campaigning, did the same for the summer holiday.
But it has refused to do so again. A petition created by the England striker calling for provision to continue in the holidays had gained more than 880,000 signatures by midday on Monday.
Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have already introduced food voucher schemes.
The government also said it gave £63m to councils – first announced in June – to help people who are struggling to afford food and essentials.
The Local Government Association said this funding was intended to be spent before the end of September and had been “outstripped” by demand.
Mr Johnson said: “We are very proud of the support we have given, I have said repeatedly throughout this crisis that the government will support families and businesses, jobs and livelihoods, across the country,” he said. “We’re going to continue to do that.
“We don’t want to see children going hungry this winter, this Christmas, certainly not as a result of any inattention by this government – and you are not going to see that.”
The PM and his Conservative MPs have faced a fierce backlash since they voted against extending free school meals in England over half-term.
Only five Conservative MPs rebelled against the Government to vote for feeding more than 1.4 million children during school breaks until Easter next year.
Instead, businesses, local authorities and community groups stepped in on the first day of the school break to provide food for hungry children.