Monday, October 12, 2020

Hungry School-Kids

  Analysis by the Food Foundation thinktank, estimates that as many as 900,000 more children have sought free school meals, on top of the 1.4 million who were already claiming, as the Covid-19 crisis plays havoc with family incomes. There has been a surge in the number of UK children registering for free school meals.

The Food Foundation analysis showed even where they were eligible for free school meals, many children were missing out on a hot lunch – the key meal of the day for children in poverty. This was because Covid-19 measures meant some school canteens had not yet become fully operational.

The deepening impact of the economic crisis was illustrated by a big increase in registrations from families that did not normally claim free school meals, typically where the main earners had been in relatively high-paying administrative and supervisory roles, the foundation added.

Sarah Hewitt-Clarkson, a headteacher in Birmingham, said the proportion of her pupils claiming free school lunches had risen from 35% to 47% in September. She said some struggling families were unable to claim free school meals because they were ineligible for social security benefits. Others had suffered big cuts in household income but would still not meet the threshold for school lunch support.

“School meals are £45 a month for one child. It’s a lot of money,” she added.

Analysis also reveals that more than 450,000 pupils face spending half-term under increased lockdown restrictions but without free school meals. Most of those children are concentrated in the north of England and the Midlands.

“All across the country, millions have lost their jobs or been furloughed, businesses are going under and everyone is finding things hard – eight out of 10 families feel worse off thanks to the pandemic. The economy is in dire straits and new restrictions will make it even harder to make ends meet,” LGA Labour’s deputy leader, councillor Michael Payne said.

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