Government U-turn on extension of Free School Meals over summer
We welcome the news, released earlier today by the Government, that the Free School Meal voucher scheme will be continued over summer 2020 for children and young people.
Kitchen Social has been campaigning for all children from a low income background to be able to access nutritious food, safe community venues and enriching activities during every school holiday since 2017.
This accomplishment, led by footballer Marcus Rashford, is a huge milestone towards achieving this aim.
Our next step will be to make this a permanent feature of support for all children from low income backgrounds.
Specifically, our aim is for:
- Statutory funding to be made available at a level sufficient to expand provision of free school meals substitutes to cover all holidays.
- A funding mechanism to be established that is suitably flexible to respond to situations where children are not in school during term time.
- Centrally coordinated (in our case, at a London level, in conjunction with local authorities) provision schemes such as Kitchen Social to be the delivery approach.
- A community approach that guarantees a targeted response to local needs, incorporates food and activities in a non-stigmatised manner, and through its support to local groups strengthens London’s social infrastructure.
Free, inclusive and high quality holiday provision remains incredibly important, particularly this summer as we all recover from the impacts of the crisis. We know that there are 400,000 children in low food security in London alone.
However, our research has shown that a staggering 67% of families accessing support from Kitchen Social have not been able to access Free School Meals vouchers. Nearly 75% have asked for more information about the voucher scheme. Therefore, there are still many, many thousands of children who rely on local services run by the council, charities and community groups. This must be addressed in time for the summer holiday.
In addition, there are at least 196,000 children living in food insecure households who are not receiving free school meals and are therefore at risk of going hungry.
We still face a long road ahead but, nevertheless, we are making huge gains.
We are working hard to make more funding and resources available to the 150 community organisations delivering holiday provision across 23 London boroughs this summer through our Kitchen Social programme.
From all of us at the Mayor’s Fund, thank you for all that you are doing to support our vision.