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​​​​​​​Executive asked to support those at risk of holiday hunger

Published Monday, 16 May 2022

City of York Council’s Executive will be asked to approve recommendations to continue to provide children and young people who are eligible for free school meals with support during school holidays.

At a meeting on 19 May, Councillors will receive a series of recommendations about tackling food poverty and holiday hunger from the Children, Education and Communities Policy and Scrutiny Committee after it was asked to look into the effectiveness, impact and funding of the free school meal voucher scheme, alongside other grassroots community-based provision and other schemes to address food poverty, by the Executive last year.

In making the request, Councillors recognised that the level of government funding available to the council was insufficient to cover the cost of providing free school meals during the school holidays.

The recommendations put forward as a result of the review reflect the continuing challenging economic situation, and acknowledge that the number of children claiming free school meals in York is expected to increase this winter as the cost of living and especially food and fuel, continue to increase.

Recommendations include continuing to promote the Department for Education funded Holiday Activity and Food Programme in York, whilst lobbying the government to make the scheme more flexible.

The Executive will also be asked to allocate the remaining £43,000 in the holiday food budget to provide supermarket vouchers to families who are in need and for whom other support may be inaccessible. This will be added to £50,000 approved earlier this month, to provide food vouchers to families in times of need not just in the school holidays.

Cllr Nigel Ayre, the council’s Executive Member for Finance and Performance, said:

Tackling holiday food poverty for local families has been our priority throughout the pandemic and the city’s immediate recovery from its impact. Even with limited funding available, we have made repeated investment to support those children most in need of help.

“The findings of this scrutiny report will help shape our future decision making about how to best support residents and communities in the continuing challenging financial context.”

Cllr Denise Craghill, the council’s Executive Member for Housing and Safer Neighbourhoods, including responsibility for tackling Food Poverty, said:

With many families struggling financially, and with the cost of living continuing to rise, it’s vitally important we are looking at ways to help and support them over the coming months and ensure that no child is forced to go hungry in York.