Tower Hamlets Council to feed 17,000 children over Christmas

Families eligible for free school meals will be able to claim £25 food vouchers per child over the Christmas holiday.

Families eligible for free school meals will be able to claim £25 food vouchers per child over the Christmas holiday. Picture: PA Images - Credit: PA

The council is set to help feed some 17,000 children at risk of going hungry over Christmas.

Tower Hamlets Council has earmarked £425,000 to pay for food vouchers for students on free school meals to use over the holidays.

The borough has one of the highest rates of child poverty in the UK and just over 15,000 children are eligible for free school meals, according to Department for Education data.

However the Town Hall said those statistics were taken in the spring and it estimates a further 2,000 children have been added to the free school meal list since due to the economic impacts of the pandemic.

Each eligible child will be entitled to a £25 supermarket food voucher, which will be distributed through schools, according to the plans.

The scheme is being funded from the £1.2million Covid Winter Grant grant provided by central government.

In a council report director for place Ann Sutcliffe said: “We know that many families are suffering from the economic impacts of the pandemic, there is a risk that doing nothing would lead to children not eating through the holiday period.

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“This grant is intended to help households, predominantly those with children, who are suffering hardship which is exacerbated by the pandemic.”

The council is set to liaise with schools to determine how many vouchers they require and for which shops.

Ms Sutcliffe added that schools will be asked whether they think any children not currently on the free meals list are at risk of going hungry because of hardship caused by Covid.

“We plan to ask schools if they have any other pupils who they believe will be at risk of hunger over the holidays, and if funding allows, to provide vouchers for those children,” the report states.

“The reason for this is that families who have newly entered the benefits system may not yet have been processed as being entitled to free school meals despite meeting the eligibility criteria.”

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