Free school meals

Vol­un­teer army mo­bilises

The Guardian - - News - Sally Weale

An army of par­ents, teach­ers and vol­un­teers will mo­bilise next week to try to en­sure that chil­dren who rely on free school meals do not go hun­gry while schools are closed as a re­sult of the Covid-19 pan­demic.

The gov­ern­ment has said that low-in­come fam­i­lies whose chil­dren are or­di­nar­ily el­i­gi­ble for the meals will be of­fered vouch­ers, food or meals, even if they are no longer at­tend­ing schools closed from to­day.

About 1.3 mil­lion chil­dren in Eng­land who come from the most dis­ad­van­taged fam­i­lies cur­rently ben­e­fit from a free school lunch.

Feed­ing Bri­tain, an in­de­pen­dent char­ity work­ing to com­bat hunger and food poverty in the UK, is work­ing with coun­cils, schools, cater­ers and voluntary or­gan­i­sa­tions on con­tin­gency plan­ning. In some ar­eas, a core group of schools will aim to of­fer hot meals for par­ents to col­lect and take home, while oth­ers will of­fer a cold food ser­vice.

Where schools can­not of­fer a col­lec­tion ser­vice, food will be trans­ported to a com­mu­nity cen­tre as an al­ter­na­tive col­lec­tion point. For the most vul­ner­a­ble fam­i­lies who might not be able to col­lect their own food, Feed­ing Bri­tain is try­ing to ini­ti­ate home de­liv­ery.

Pro­pos­als are also be­ing de­vel­oped to in­clude the fol­low­ing day’s break­fast in­gre­di­ents in food parcels as ad­di­tional sup­port.

An­drew Forsey, na­tional di­rec­tor of Feed­ing Bri­tain, called on schools to con­tinue to play a role in en­sur­ing chil­dren get fed dur­ing the cri­sis: “Where much of the pub­lic con­cern has been di­rected to­wards what will hap­pen to free school lunches, we know that large num­bers of chil­dren also rely on a school break­fast. When schools do have to close, that’s two sep­a­rate meals a day which they will lose.”

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