We’ve joined forces with 38 food campaigners, charities and health experts to call on the Government to fund free school meals during the forthcoming autumn half-term and the Christmas holiday periods.  While the #EndChildFoodPoverty campaign is calling for long term sustainable action to address child food poverty, we’re asking the government not to remove the temporary safety net in the meantime.

The coalition of organisations and campaigners – which includes Sustain, Food FoundationBiteback 2030 and School Food Matters – has written to the Secretary of State for Education, Gavin Williamson MP, arguing that with coronavirus on the rise again and lockdowns being re-instated, the situation is worsening for those living in food insecurity.  

The group is strongly recommending a top-up grant that can be distributed via local authorities (or directly to schools and academy trusts) to cover the respective autumn half-term and Christmas holiday periods. The grant would be linked to free school meal registration and the funds could be converted into food hampers, supermarket vouchers or cash support payments for families.

ACAS/Yougov polling recently highlighted the worrying statistics related to food poverty – revealing that around a third of businesses are planning to lay off staff, and Trussell Trust predicts a 61% increase in the need for food parcels in the period before Christmas.

Barbara Crowther from the Children’s Food Campaign said: “In what has been a far from normal year, Government support needs to go above and beyond to challenge food insecurity. With eligibility for Free School Meals and the nationwide job redundancy on the rise, the need for Government funding for children from low income backgrounds has become more vital than ever.   Local lockdowns and the arrival of winter, and therefore increased heating and lighting costs, have put household food budgets under even further pressure.”

The coalition believes children at risk of going hungry should receive free school meals during all holidays, to combat holiday hunger. This is especially pertinent now as the rate of redundancy is at its highest level since 2009 and 5.6 million people are on Universal Credit.

Stephanie Slater, Founder/CEO of School Food matters said: “We welcomed the Government’s change of heart on providing free school meals during the holidays. But as the Covid crisis deepens, more and more families are struggling to feed their families well. This is not the time to withdraw this vital support and we urge the Government to think again and acknowledge that these are extraordinary times which call for extraordinary action.”

The full text of the letter is below.

To support the #EndChildFoodPoverty campaign, which is calling for a long term solution, please sign the petition calling for change:

https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/554276