As reported by BBC News, charities are helping feed school children during the COVID-19 crisis
The charity, Feeding Britain, said it was working with schools to provide meals for parents to take home; others are planning to provide food packages to leave on the doorsteps of self-isolating families.
Almost 1.3m children, about 15% of those in England’s state schools, receive free school meals because they come from low income families.
Official data shows the need is greatest in parts of London, the north and Midlands where more than one-in-four pupils are entitled to free meals. Schools and community centre kitchens are being lined up to prepare meals for children who would normally get one for free during term time.
Andrew Forsey, of Feeding Britain, says the charity is working with a ‘core group’ of schools to use their canteens to produce the meals, whereas in normal holidays they would remain closed. Its plans would see schools offer hot meals for parents to collect and take home. Others would offer ‘cold but nutritious meals’ and, in some cases, ‘particularly vulnerable’ families would have them delivered.
The charity operates in parts of Yorkshire, Merseyside, Cheshire, Coventry, Bristol, Cornwall, South Shields, Derbyshire and Leicester. “In a school holiday it’s normally a mix of food and activities for children, who have meals together and also some cooking and food-related activities, arts and crafts,” Andrew says. “We’d also deliver food through community events whereas, under these plans, we would have to work on the sole purpose of food.”
Angie Comerford, who works at Hebburn Helps, provides breakfast and lunches to school children during the holidays and said the charity would approach school closures like a ‘long Easter holiday’. They usually provide hot meals and activities for children across South Tyneside but, as a result of high demand, and the many families self-isolating, they will only be providing packed lunches to Hebburn and Jarrow.
“We’ve got a couple of families who’ve had to self-isolate, and also kids who have got underlying health issues,” Angie says, adding that volunteers were leaving food at doorsteps for them to collect. In a normal six-week summer holiday the charity would provide 1,800 packed lunches. “To be honest I haven’t got a clue what it’ll be this time,” explains Angie.”We do have a couple of quid in the pot but, if anyone can pitch in by providing food, or chuck us a couple a quid, that would be good.”
Food charity Fareshare says it is expecting to see a big demand for the services supporting children who, “as a result of no longer having access to free school meals, will be at much greater risk of hunger and malnutrition.”
Prime minister Boris Johnson said provision was being made to ‘supply meals and vouchers to children on free school meals. “Where some schools are already doing this, I want to make it clear that we will reimburse the cost,” he said.