Somerset acts over school meals

Footballer Marcus Rashford has energised the debate over providing free school meals in holidays. On Friday we reported on Somerton & Frome MP, David Warburton’s view. This followed a debate in the House of Commons which Mr Warburton took part in. Marcus Rashford has campaigned on the issue with feeling, having benefited from the scheme as a child.

Initially he campaigned for the free school meal scheme to be extended over the summer holiday. Especially in light of the COVID 19 crisis. This meant that many poorer families were struggling with pay reduced to 80% of normal, because of furlough. Some had been laid off altogether.

The Westminster Government agreed eventually, and funded free school meals over the summer holidays. Mr Rashford is now campaigning for the scheme (it only provides free meals for the poorest children) to be extended again. This time into the Christmas holidays.

Since then and in response to his campaign, a number of local authorities have taken the initiative.

This afternoon Somerset County council announced some help for the neediest families too. As the education authority for Somerset, any change in policy is down to them. The funding will have to be found locally, unless the Westminster Government has a change of heart. By example SCC explained that during the summer Government provided SCC with £500,000. The cost of providing food to the neediest families ran to £2.2m.

For now SCC have set aside £125,000 towards providing the meals during the Christmas holidays. They believe this will be enough to provide an 26,000 meals during the holiday period. SCC are working alongside community organisations and businesses to provide much needed meals and food for families most at need.

With today’s announcement SCC are urging families in need of urgent food supplies to contact the Coronavirus helpline. That number is: 0300 790 6275.

Meanwhile SCC also announced that their partners, Fareshare aimed to bring in an extra 140 tonnes of food. this will b e provided via community groups and food banks.

The Leveller says: It is time to end this ad hoc provision. We are talking about school children getting a decent meal once a day. In one of the richest countries in the world. This should be a year round provision, not just in term time. It is only for those in need. It should be a moral imperative to look after the neediest in society. It is not asking a lot. If we are really worries about the cost, perhaps we could try a little harder to extract cash from serial tax avoiders and evaders?

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