Emergency talks have been held between Bath & North East Somerset Council and partners to ensure no child will go hungry during school holidays. This follows the government’s decision to stop funding free school meals during the break. The council and partners have pledged to pull resources together.
There are currently more than 4,000 children in Bath and North East Somerset who receive means-tested free school meals.
Councillor Dine Romero, B&NES council leader, said: “We will step up where the Government hasn’t to make sure children in Bath and North East Somerset do not go without food during school holidays.
“We applaud Marcus Rashford’s campaign but won’t be able to introduce a Free School Meal voucher scheme overnight to replace government funding. We are looking at a range of options including a voucher scheme which we will bring in as soon as we can. Right now I want families to know about the support that is available and that we can offer more immediate help in individual circumstances.
Councillor Kevin Guy, cabinet member for Children’s Services, added: “Today I convened a meeting where we pledged that no hungry child will slip between the net.
“We should not have to rely on the goodwill of partners and the commitment of local communities to make sure children do not go hungry.
“The Government allocated funds earlier this year under the Covid-19 local authority emergency assistance grant for food and essential supplies but this did not cover Free School Meals. This means that as a council we have got to find additional funding to pay for Free School Meal vouchers to cover the holidays. We are actively looking at doing this and we will continue to lobby government for funding to meet these additional costs to cover support for the 4,000 children in B&NES who need our help.”
Partners who pledge support include
- B&NES Welfare Support: The council’s welfare support scheme which provides help to residents in extreme financial difficulties including foodbank vouchers. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling the Welfare Support Team on 01225 477 277. This service is normally available Monday to Friday between 9am and 4.30pm and 4pm on Fridays.
- The Compassionate Communities Hub. You can access support via the helpline on 0300 247 0050which operates Monday – Friday 9am to 5pm.
- The Sustainable Food Partnership https://www.3sg.org.uk/pages/sustainable-food-partnership The Sustainable Food Partnership Food Directory advises Food Clubs and Pantries providing affordable food or emergency food parcels.
- St John’s Foundation Holiday Food Grant Programme. The programme was jointly funded by Feeding Britain and St John’s Foundation and orchestrated by Bath & North East Somerset Council, as part of its Food Poverty Steering Group. Grants enabled charities and statutory services in Bath and North East Somerset to deliver support to families with children at risk of hunger and malnutrition.
- FOOD Clubs and Pantries: Community groups, churches, charities and Family Centres are being supported by Bath & North East Somerset Council to help families on low incomes access high quality affordable food. A network of FOOD Clubs and Pantries has opened in key locations across the district to supply low cost food to those in need. Details of FOOD Clubs and Pantries across Bath and North East Somerset are available by visiting: http://banesfoodfinder.org.uk/listing/food-clubs-pantries