£1m fund to provide meals for children during holidays 

A girl in school uniform holding a school dinner tray, with an apple and banana on top.

Families will be helped with the cost of providing meals for children during the school summer holidays thanks to a £1m support fund.

Westmorland and Furness Council has allocated £1.1m from Household Support funding to ensure that every young person who is eligible for a free school meal during term-time can continue to receive help with the cost of a meal during the holidays.

Vouchers worth £3.45 are being issued to parents of eligible children for each weekday through the summer holidays. The vouchers are issued through the child’s school and can be redeemed for food at all main supermarkets, including ASDA, Aldi, Tesco and Sainsbury’s.

Around 5,200 children in Westmorland and Furness will be eligible to receive vouchers under the scheme.

The summer holiday fund follows on from a similar voucher scheme the council offered over the Easter holidays.

The voucher scheme was devised in response to the on-going cost of living crisis as the former Cumbria County Council looked to support families to ensure that no child would go hungry.

Expert witnesses, including local head teachers, made several recommendations to a task force set up to look at the issues and support has included direct help for schools and meal vouchers for holidays.

Funding for the voucher scheme comes from the government’s Household Support Fund (HSF) allocation. The fund is distributed to local authorities to establish schemes to provide support for those households most in need, helping those people to cope with the effects of the rising cost of living.

As well as the meal vouchers, money from HSF is also being used for a number of other initiatives in Westmorland and Furness. These include providing hot meals for the Holiday Activity and Food Programme across Westmorland and Furness during the summer holidays and winter 2023, funding a Care Leaver Support package - including emergency one-off discretionary payments for food, utilities bills and other essentials – providing extra support for foster carers and funding grants towards the cost of school uniforms.

Westmorland and Furness Council’s Cabinet Member Housing and Homelessness, Councillor Judith Derbyshire, commented: “So many families are facing real hardship and I am delighted that we have been able to provide this support to help ensure children don’t go hungry during the summer holidays.

“The fact we are having to do this is very sad. No child should be facing hunger. But we recognise that rising costs, from mortgage rates to food prices, are putting a real strain on many families and we hope this voucher scheme, alongside other measures we have put in place through the Household Support funding, will help to ease that a little for those most in need in our communities."