Four boys eating their school lunch from blue trays

Hammersmith & Fulham steps in to offer free school meals over half term

Hammersmith & Fulham Council will give every pupil in need free meal vouchers for next week’s half term break.

We want to ensure no child goes hungry in H&F and this is just part of our war on food poverty.

“It's simply wrong that so many children go hungry in the fifth richest country on Earth. We stepped in to help struggling local families after the government failed to act this week,” said Cllr Stephen Cowan, Leader of the London Borough of Hammersmith & Fulham.

“I am extremely grateful to our local schools who are working closely with us in our effort to see no child left hungry.”

Boy eating a meal at school from a tray
Image caption: Every parent in need with a child in an H&F state school will be given a voucher to pay for food during the half term break

It means that every parent in need with a child in an H&F state school will be given a voucher to pay for food during the half term break.

The vouchers are paid for entirely by community contributions won by the council taking a tough approach in negotiations with property developers.

Many thanks to Tesco for providing the vouchers so quickly. It meant we could reach families before the schools broke up.

In addition, school breakfasts will be delivered over the break to 600 local pupils most in need of help.

If your family is in crisis this half term, you can also call our Community Aid Network hotline on Freephone 0800 145 6095 or email can@lbhf.gov.uk

The need in H&F

H&F currently has approximately 5,000 primary and secondary pupils who are eligible for free school meals – or 24 per cent of all local pupils. This is far above the national average of 15 per cent.

In the past year, we’ve seen a 22 per cent increase in demand in free school meals from local families. This is expected to increase further due to the Covid-19 pandemic and workers losing their jobs.

That’s why H&F has already guaranteed the funding to allow local primary schools to offer universal free breakfasts to pupils to help local families combat food insecurity. A free breakfast club offer could save a struggling family £380 per year for every child in primary school.

In addition, we’ve launched a pioneering pilot scheme at two local secondary schools – Fulham College Boys’ School and Woodlane High School – to deliver free lunches. The free school lunches started in January as part of a four-year programme.

Watch how BBC London News covered the announcement.

Like the free half term food vouchers, these schemes are paid for entirely by community contributions won by the council taking a tough approach in negotiations with property developers.

H&F is working with schools, volunteer organisations and local businesses to rise to the challenge as a key aim in the council’s Industrial Strategy to harness the economic prosperity of our booming borough.

Two boys eating a school lunch in their uniforms
Image caption: The vouchers are paid for entirely by community contributions won by the council

The system is broken

The government’s free school meal system is not working. The threshold for families to receive school meals is too high and allows children to go hungry during school holidays.

In the UK, having one parent in paid work usually makes families ineligible for free school meals. Yet the majority of Londoners in poverty are in a working family – with almost 10 per cent of poor families having two parents in full-time work.

“Food poverty is a national crisis,” Cllr Cowan added. “We must continue our fight to end this blight on our children and their future well-being.”

What we’re doing to fight poverty in H&F

Some of the things we’re doing to fight poverty in H&F include:

The H&F independent Poverty and Worklessness Commission was set up to find the causes of poverty in the borough, and to develop bold new ways of tackling this.

Hammersmith & Fulham Foodbank provides help and support to those in need in the borough. That includes emergency food parcels, and advice or referrals to other organisations to help families in food poverty. The Foodbank receives funding from H&F Council.

Rose Vouchers is a scheme to help people on low incomes to get fresh fruit and vegetables from local traders. It also shares tips on health eating.

The WorkZone is a dedicated service helping people to secure jobs. The team helps jobseekers gain the right skills and qualifications needed and valued by employers and offers jobseekers a clear advantage in their search for employment.

Our goal is for there to be nobody sleeping rough in our borough. The independent H&F Rough Sleeping Commission was established to help meet this vision by developing ground-breaking new policies in this area.

Hundreds of new homes are being built, and many more improved, for local people. We are presently delivering more genuinely affordable homes, to rent and to buy, than at any point in a decade.

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