The Home Office has been branded "crude" and "offensive" over an attempt to tackle knife crime with the distribution of #knifefree boxes to chicken shops.

More than 321,000 chicken boxes featuring the Home Office campaign have been sent to more than 210 outlets in England and Wales.

The boxes, which will replace standard packaging in chains such as Morley’s, Chicken Cottage and Dixy Chicken, are printed with real life stories of young people who have chosen to no longer carry a knife.

Policing minister Kit Malthouse claimed the 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, he added.

The Home Office expanded the campaign, aimed at 10 to 21-year-olds from all backgrounds, following positive feedback from a trial in 15 Morley’s outlets in March.

The department’s research shows 67% of chicken shop customers are aged 16 to 24, with participants in focus groups saying fast foot outlets are one of their favourite places to meet friends.

But the initiative has prompted a backlash and drawn accusations of racism.

Labour’s shadow home secretary Diane Abbott said: 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.

Her fellow Labour MP David Lammy told The Guardian: The Home Office is using taxpayers’ money to sponsor an age-old trope.

Boris Johnson has already called black people ‘piccaninnies with watermelon smiles’.

Now his government is pushing the stereotype that black people love fried chicken.

This ridiculous stunt is either explicitly racist or, at best, unfathomably stupid.

I know it might cost a bit more time, effort and money, but I would love it if you would announce a programme of investment in our local communities instead of spending five minutes on a harmful gimmick.

(c) Sky News 2019: Home Office under fire over ‘racist’ #knifefree chicken boxes