Economic impact of Covid-19 causes sharp rise in demand for Free School Meals

12 October 2020

The Food Foundation has released new data as part of the joint #EndChildFoodPoverty campaign with Marcus Rashford.

The new data shows that 29% of children aged 8-17 - around 2.2 million children - are now registered for Free School Meals, with 42% of these children (900,000) newly registered to the scheme. The research further reveals that 64% of the newly registered children are from households where the main earners report being in higher income occupations, and when viewed alongside survey data gathered in August showing 32% of households with children have experienced a drop in income since late March, it is clear the socio-economic consequences of Covid-19 crisis are hitting families hard.

However, despite the uptick in demand the research also shows that schools are struggling to provide hot lunches, with only 32% of all children aged 8-17 saying they were eating hot meals from the canteen, and a shocking 3% of children (180,000) saying they skipped lunch entirely.

We know that access to a hot, nutritionally balanced school meal provides vital sustenance for disadvantaged children, with many relying on it as their main meal. School Food Matters, along with 20 charities and key names in the food industry, supports the #EndChildFoodPoverty campaign, and we will continue to call on the Government to allocate sufficient budget to the three National Food Strategy recommendations, as part of an urgent recovery package for vulnerable families and their children this Autumn:

  • Eligibility for Free School Meal (FSM) to be expanded to include every child (up to the age of 16) from a household where the parent or guardian is in receipt of Universal Credit (or equivalent benefits)

  • Extend the Holiday Activity and Food Programme (HAF) to all areas in England, so that summer holiday support is available to all children in receipt of Free School Meals.

  • Increase the value of Healthy Start vouchers to £4.25 per week and expand the scheme to every pregnant woman and to all households with children under 4 where a parent or guardian is in receipt of Universal Credit or equivalent benefits

The Guardian has also covered the release of the report, along with Marcus Rashford’s receipt of an MBE.

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