CIVIC chiefs have called on the government to feed Southampton children eligible for free school meals during the school holidays for the next three years.
The government has been advised by city councillors to draw a long-term draft so that eligible children will have access to food outside of term time. Throughout October half-term, these children received free school meals from local residents and business due to the government’s decision to not provide food themselves, a decision that they had received criticism for. Since then the decision has been reversed, and eligible children will get free school meals until 2021, including during school holidays.
However, there have been complaints from residents and councils of not getting enough support and guidance during the pandemic from the government. Therefore, the local city councillors are requesting the government to fund a long-term plan.
Cllr Barrie Margetts has stated:
“The people of Southampton showed that they will not stand by while children go hungry, but this ad hoc approach it is not a sustainable way to ensure food security for all our children. Now is the time to address long term food insecurity in Southampton.”
He emphasised that 9,000 children in the Southampton depend on free school meals and more families are reaching out to food banks.
“Food security is a fundamental human right. The Southampton City Council calls on the UK government to join with us to end holiday hunger. We call on the government to support the development of a longer term plan to ensure that every child in Southampton is food secure.”
The government announced at the beginning of this month a £170m grant to support children, families and the most vulnerable over winter and it has extended during the holiday activities and food programme to cover Easter, summer and Christmas 2021. It was claimed that decisions regarding funding will be taken at the Spending Review each year alongside an increase in Universal Credit and Tax Credits by up to £20 a week, and £63m for councils to provide emergency assistance to families.