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H&F steps in to offer free school meals in October half-term

Categoriesnews Children and young peoplenews

Image captionImage 1: Students from Fulham College Boys’ School in their canteen during term time

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. This 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 gravest health and economic pandemic of our lifetime is not over. Yet the government has turned its back on families in need by removing the Universal Credit top-up, all while food and energy bills are going through the roof,” said Cllr Larry Culhane, H&F Cabinet Member for Children and Education.

“We won’t look the other way. That’s why we have funded Free School Meals in the holidays since October 2020 and will continue to do so while this pandemic continues. I am extremely grateful to our schools who continue to work closely with us to make sure that no child is left hungry.”

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

We’re also providing funding to 17 local groups and organisations to provide food at holiday activities for children, including Fulham Cricket Club, The Harrow Club, London Sports Trust and the Masbro Youth Club. For more details about all the events, please visit our October Spooktacular page here.

The need in H&F

H&F currently has approximately 5,600 primary and secondary pupils who are eligible for free school meals – or 27 per cent of all local pupils. This is far above the national average of 19 per cent.

In addition, school breakfasts will be distributed to 600 local pupils most in need of help during half term.

In the past year, we’ve seen a 12 per cent increase in demand for free school meals from local families. This is expected to increase further due to the end of the Covid-19 furlough scheme.

How H&F is responding

The rise in demand from families in need is 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 last year 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 is to harness the economic prosperity of the borough.

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.

If your family is in crisis this half term, please call our Community Aid Network hotline on Freephone 0800 145 6095 from Monday to Sunday, 8am to 6pm, or email can@lbhf.gov.uk

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

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

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 Work Zone is a dedicated service helping people to secure jobs. Based at Shepherds Bush Library at Westfield London, the Work Zone 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.

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.

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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