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Charities, experts and victims say the cost-of-living crisis has worsened what was already a problem on an epidemic scale among some of the UK's poorest and most desperate families. England footballer Marcus Rashford galvanised Prime Minister Boris Johnson in 2020 to step up and address food poverty in the UK, especially provision in school holidays.

But government analysis of its £220million 2021 Holiday Activities and Food (HAF) programme shows that of the 1.7 million children eligible for a free healthy, hot dinner only 498,000, or 29 percent, took advantage.

And then they did so on average for only 9.6 days.

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