Leeds City Council has committed to providing free school meals for eligible children across the city over the Christmas break and February half-term.
The Covid Winter Grant Fund was announced by the Government on 8 November 2020 to enable local authorities to better support vulnerable children, families and individuals. Leeds City Council was allocated £2.84 million.
Today the council has announced that £1.6m of that amount is being set aside to provide free meals during the next two school holidays to over 34,000 children estimated to live in poverty in the city.
Catering Leeds, part of Leeds City Council, will work with Asda to deliver food directly to the homes of children, with volunteers from both organisations working together to pack thousands of hampers.
If schools choose to, they can opt out of this city-wide scheme and receive the funds directly to deliver their own provision.
All children who receive free school meals during term time will be eligible, but schools will be able to ask for additional money to support families who are not eligible for free school meals but who they assess to be living in poverty.
Proposals on how the council spends the remaining Winter Support Grant funding will be set out in the coming weeks.
Local authorities are able to choose how they spend the money as long as it supports those most in need with the cost of food, energy (heating, cooking and lighting), water bills and other essentials. The funds must be spent between December 2020 and March 2021.
Councillor Jonathan Pryor, Leeds City Council’s executive member for learning, skills and employment said:
“We know that this year remains incredibly difficult for many families in Leeds and we are committed to supporting our most vulnerable residents as we battle through this uncertain winter period. No family should have to worry about providing food for their children during school holidays and we hope that by providing free meals we will be easing the pressure on some of our most vulnerable families at the end of what has been a tough year for us all.”
In addition to the food hampers, the Healthy Holidays programme, run by Leeds Community Foundation in partnership with Leeds City Council and other organisations, will also continue to operate through school holidays.
This successful programme provides children and families with access to meals and activities during the holidays.
Since April, the programme has provided just under 130,000 portions of food to children and their families, alongside online activities, face-to-face activities, and activity packs delivered to their homes.
If you are in a position to provide support to the Leeds Healthy Holiday programme – through resources or funding – please contact Leeds Community Foundation on: firstname.lastname@example.org
Alternatively you can donate to Leeds Community Foundation’s Healthy Holidays fundraiser here: https://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/charity-web/charity/displayCharityCampaignPage.action?charityCampaignUrl=LeedsHealthyHolidays
Notes to editors:
About the Winter Support Grant:
At least 80% must be allocated to households with children, the remainder to individuals or households without children.
Of those allocations, 80% must be in relation to food, fuel, water and other household bills (not rent/housing costs), with the remainder on other essentials clearly linked to the scheme’s conditions (including sanitary products, warm clothing, soap, blankets; boiler service/repair; purchase of equipment including fridges, freezers, ovens, etc.).