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Free school meal support extended into October half-term holidays

By Jacob Phillips, local democracy reporter

Free school meal support is being extended into the October half-term holidays by London councils.

Meal vouchers will be given out across the capital to make sure children do not go hungry during the school break.

So far 31 town halls have confirmed that they will be providing vouchers for school children in need over half term.

It follows national campaigning from England and Manchester United footballer Marcus Rashford.

Councils are now deciding whether to provide £15 supermarket vouchers for children in the October half term.

Last year 21 of 32 London councils provided free school meals for primary and secondary school children. The City of London Corporation also confirmed it provides free school meals.

This year Sutton, Merton, Bromley, Waltham Forest and Harrow Council have all confirmed they will now be giving out free school meal vouchers.

Just two councils, Barking and Dagenham and Bromley did not confirm whether they were providing free school meals to London’s children when the Local Democracy Reporting Service asked.

In Hammersmith and Fulham, 5,600 primary and secondary pupils are eligible for free school meals, 27 per cent of pupils who go to school there.

The council will also give out free school breakfasts to 600 local pupils in need during half term.

Last year Kensington and Chelsea (RBKC) became one of the first Tory-led councils to offer free school meals to 3,300 children following a Rashford led campaign.

This year RBKC estimates it will provide 4,000 youngers with meal vouchers and will spend £55,000 ensuring the borough’s children do not go hungry.

Families can contact their children’s schools if they believe they’re eligible for the scheme.

Kensington and Chelsea councillor Josh Rendall, in charge of family and children’s services, said: “Half term should be a time for our local children to socialise, play and enjoy a break from school.

“We’re committed to supporting children during these particularly challenging times and by allocating £55,000 from our share of the Housing Support Fund, as we did last year, families who might otherwise struggle will receive £15 per child throughout the week.

“This will ensure they can focus on what matters most to them without worrying about food.”

Hammersmith and Fulham councillor Larry Culhane, in charge of children and education, said: “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.

“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.”

Bromley and Barking and Dagenham Councils were contacted for comment.

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