Free school meals extended

More than a million young people entitled to free school meals will get free meal vouchers over the summer holiday, after a campaign by Manchester United and England footballer Marcus Rashford.

Mr Rashford, 22, wrote an emotional open letter to MPs drawing on his own experiences of relying on free school meals and food banks growing up in Manchester.

Downing Street confirmed that all children eligible for free school meals in term time in England will benefit from a £120 million COVID-19 summer food fund. Scotland and Wales will also continue with the voucher programme.

In England, the support works out at around £15 per recipient, with families issued with electronic vouchers or gift cards to spend at supermarkets.

Official data shows that almost 1.3 million school children in England – 15.4 per cent of state-educated pupils – were eligible for and claiming free school meals in January 2019, rising to between a quarter and a third of all pupils in in parts of London, the North and Midlands.

The LGA, which campaigned for an extension of the voucher scheme over the Easter holidays, said it was pleased the Government had committed to “this lifeline for many families”.

Cllr Judith Blake, Chair of the LGA’s Children and Young People Board, said: “No young person should have to go hungry and ensuring vulnerable pupils, including those on free school meals and with special educational needs and disabilities, are provided for is a top priority for councils and schools.

“The coronavirus pandemic has shown that listening and working together can lead to policies that have positive outcomes for our most vulnerable communities, including children and young people from low-income families.”


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