The Home Office has rolled out more than 321,000 food boxes carrying anti-knife crime messages to chicken shops throughout the UK as part of its #knifefree campaign.

The UK Government said that the #knifefree campaign, which is aimed at young people aged 10 to 21 from all backgrounds, warns about the dangers of carrying a knife.

Chicken shop chains using the packaging include Morley’s, Chicken Cottage and Dixy Chicken.

The #knifefree campaign was initially trialled at 15 Morley’s outlets in March this year. The government said that it made the decision to expand the campaign to chicken shops around the country following the positive feedback it received from the trial.

Policing minister Kit Malthouse said: “These chicken boxes will bring home to thousands of young people the tragic consequences of carrying a knife and challenge the idea that it makes you safer.

“The government is doing everything it can to tackle the senseless violence that is traumatising communities and claiming too many young lives, including bolstering the police’s ranks with 20,000 new police officers on our streets.”

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#knifefree campaign met with accusations of racism and resource wastage

The government said that it chose to partner with chicken shops following research by advertising agency All City Media Solutions (ACMS), which showed that 67% of customers are aged between 16-24. The government believes that this would enable it to effectively reach young people as part of its wider #knifefree campaign.

It also said it held focus groups, which supported this insight, with participants claiming that fast food outlets were one of their favourite places to meet with friends.

However, the #knifefree campaign has been criticised by many, suggesting that it is racist and offensive.

Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott tweeted: “Instead of investing in a public health approach to violent crime, the Home Office have opted for yet another crude, offensive and probably expensive campaign. They would do better to invest in our communities not demonise them.”

Others confronted the Government’s lack of care and waste of resources, stating that youth-focused infrastructures would be a way better way to change the face of knife crime in the UK.

One Twitter user wrote: “Cutting funding to youth services and then sticking anti-crime messages on chicken shop boxes is some next level gaslighting and racism #knifefree tell the Tories to go knife-free when they’re about to devastate entire communities with funding cuts.”

Another wrote: “Imagine thinking that partnering with chicken shops to tackle knife crime via packaging was the go to instead of investing in youth services and education. Our government is clapped example #957393. #knifefree.”