Community group welcomes government free meals U-turn - but stresses need to keep tackling the issue

A community group in Cumbria has welcomed the government's U-turn to provide children in England with free meals during the school summer holidays.

Carlisle Covid-19 Community Help Group sends food and activity parcels to over 300 children per week.

They say the policy change, sparked by footballer Marcus Rashford's campaign, will go a long way, but stresses the need to keep tackling the 'growing' issue.

3m

children in Britain go hungry in the holidays, and not all covered by the free school meals scheme.

11%

Food insecurity has increased from 5.7%, according to the Food Foundation.

Councillor Lisa Brown and Councillor Karen Lockney are part of volunteer team which run the group. Lisa said: "We are seeing growing need among families struggling in lockdown, and we do not want to see any child go hungry.

"We are determined to keep our food hub going as long as we can as we know that ‘holiday hunger’ is a huge problem even in normal circumstances, and we are trying to do what we can to help children and young people who are already facing so many challenges as a result of this pandemic.’

The community group, made up of volunteers, has extended an invitation to Cumbrian Conservative MPs John Stevenson and Neil Hudson to see the work they do at the food hub.

Karen said: "They would see first-hand the hard work of our volunteers who are giving up their time to buy, sort, pack and deliver food parcels all over Carlisle."

"Some of the comments we are getting from parents struggling under lockdown are heart breaking. No-one wants to see children go hungry.

"With changes to the furlough scheme on the horizon, we anticipate increased need.

"The meal voucher system will go a long way to help, but we still need to monitor and tackle this issue.

"Our work is far from over and we are keen to help MPs and those who make decisions to gain a deeper understanding and to be able to target support as a result."

How do I get help?

  • County Council Emergency Helpline on: 0800 783 1966

  • The Community Help Group on 07394 546 877 or COVID19support@cumbria.go.uk

Credit: Cumbria County Council

Nicola Sturgeon also announced on Tuesday that free school meals for children will continue in Scotland during the summer holidays.

Children in eligible for free school meals in Scotland will also continue through the summer holidays, Nicola Sturgeon confirmed on Tuesday.

The extension of the scheme will cover the period from the end of June to the start of the new school term in Scotland on August 11.

The First Minister said an extra £12.6m would be given to councils to continue free meals over the summer for children from the most vulnerable families as well as all P1-P3 pupils.

The Scottish Government announcement came shortly before UK ministers announced their change in policy.