21,000 free meals dished out by Tower Hamlets to tackle food poverty in school summer holidays

Mayor John Biggs visiting Cayley Primary School. Picture: Tower Hamlets Council

Mayor John Biggs visiting Cayley Primary School. Picture: Tower Hamlets Council - Credit: Tower Hamlets Council

Thousands of free meals are being given out to children in the East End during the school summer holiday to tackle pressures for families on the poverty line.

They're being paid for by Tower Hamlets Council for youngsters eligible for free school meals.

Food poverty is a growing problem, especially in the summer months, the council acknowledges.

"The summer break should be a time to enjoy — but the reality is that families often experience challenges," mayor John Biggs said.

"Children living in food poverty do less well in school and are more likely to be obese or have physical and mental health conditions.

"Our summer holiday provision will alleviate some of the pressure by giving children the chance to take part in activities and have nutritious meals during the school break."

The council has approved almost £80,000 to provide 21,000 meals for children at summer holiday clubs and activities.

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The holiday childcare clubs opened yesterday at schools and community centres giving free breakfast and lunch for 330 children every day for 18 days over the summer break.

The council's cabinet member for children and schools, Danny Hassell, said: "Our holiday programmes encourage youngsters to take up sport, exercise and activities as well as supporting low-income families who may struggle to provide children with healthy meals."

The council is also running a Fit and Fed scheme and plans to offer an extra 10,000 meals to youngsters at Idea Stores, leisure centres, youth centres and outdoor education centres.

More than one in three Tower Hamlets school pupils are eligible for free school meals, one of the highest ratios in London, reaching 15,000 children out of almost 45,000 in the East End.

School holiday clubs are at St Paul's Whitechapel, Manorfield and Old Palace in Bromley-by-Bow, Cayley in Stepney, Stebon in Bow Common, Elizabeth Selby in Bethnal Green, and three schools in Poplar, Mayflower, Lansbury and Bygrove.

Children from Our Lady and St Joseph's Catholic Primary and Woolmore Primary schools are being catered for at the Neighbours in Poplar community centre at St Mathias Church, while those from Marner Primary are being looked after at Poplar Harca housing association.