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

Hammersmith & Fulham Council is – once again – stepping in to guarantee every pupil in need free meal vouchers for the February half-term break.

We remain determined that no child goes hungry in H&F as part of our war on food poverty.

“In the middle of a health and economic crisis, the government have refused to step in and help tackle holiday hunger – but we won’t look the other way,” said Cllr Larry Culhane, H&F Cabinet Member for Children and Education.

“That’s why – despite a large funding gap from government to cover the council's costs tackling Covid – we will continue to make this a priority investment.

“We are extremely grateful to schools in H&F who are doing an amazing job educating and inspiring our children in the toughest circumstances, but who are also doing everything they can to support the effort to see no child left hungry in these very difficult times.”

How does it work?

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.

In addition, school breakfasts will be delivered over the break to 600 local pupils most in need of help thanks to our partnership with charity Magic Breakfast.

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 saw 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 provide free lunches. The free school lunches started in January as part of a four-year programme.

Watch how BBC London News covered the announcement.

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 borough.

The system is broken

The government’s free school meal system is clearly 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.

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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