Free School Meal vouchers available this Easter

Nottingham City Council has secured further grants to provide holiday activities and food to pupils who are eligible for Free School Meals (FSM) over the Easter, Summer and Christmas holidays of 2021.

Over the recent Christmas and February half term, the council had used the Government’s Covid Winter Grant Scheme, to fund Free School Meal supermarket vouchers for FSM pupils.

The same Covid Winter Grant Scheme has now been extended until after the Easter holidays. This means supermarket vouchers will again be provided to every eligible child in Nottingham this Easter. The vouchers will be £15 per child for each week of the holiday. These will be distributed through schools before pupils break up for the Easter holiday.

The council has also secured a further £1.8m from the Government’s Holiday Activity Fund (HAF). This funding will be allocated, through a bidding process, to community groups, charities and schools with the ability to deliver Holiday Clubs in communities across the city. Some activities will also be trialled over the Easter break.

The HAF funding has been allocated from the Department for Education with certain criteria attached. The criteria stipulate that the support for tackling holiday hunger should be through FSM pupils attending Holiday Clubs. At the Holiday Clubs, FSM pupils will receive a free lunch, alongside a programme of activities focused on healthy eating, fitness and mental health.

It is not currently clear if the Government will permit the new HAF funding to be used for supermarket vouchers in addition to the Holiday Club schemes.

Councillor David Mellen, Portfolio Holder for Schools and Leader of Nottingham City Council, said: “The new funding is obviously very welcome. It is good news that pupils in need of help will be able to benefit from supermarket vouchers again this Easter.

“Nottingham has 14,700 children eligible for Free School Meals. It is right and proper that we are given the funding to plan activities and healthy meals for children in need.

“However, the Government’s new funding is for the provision of Holiday Clubs where FSM pupils can receive a free lunch as part of a programme of activity sessions.

“I am sure the Holiday Clubs will really benefit the children who attend. But our lived experience of Holiday Club provision is that not all pupils attend them for various complex reasons. The risk here is that, if they do not attend, many vulnerable pupils may still go without food over the holidays.

“After Easter we will be seeking clarity from the Government about the future of supermarket vouchers and the best way to support our Free School Meal pupils in the longer term.”

Back in October 2020 Nottingham City Council endorsed Marcus Rashford’s campaign to tackle holiday hunger. At a meeting of the Full Council in November, councillors highlighted the levels of child poverty in Nottingham and gave a commitment to support Free Schools Meals to children over the recent Christmas and February half term holidays. The latest funding developments now enable this commitment to continue throughout the holidays in 2021.

Cllr Rebecca Langton, Portfolio Holder for Communities, said: “The extension of funding is great news and supports the commitment we made to ending child poverty in Nottingham in our motion to Full Council last November.

“We want to create a Free School Meals solution which is as easy, accessible and effective as possible. We will also continue to campaign for longer term solutions which acknowledge the struggles facing Nottingham families. Feeding our children must continue to be our first priority in these tough times.”

The bidding process for the Holiday Club grant allocations will be available for community groups, charities and schools to apply in April. For more information, or to be placed on a notification list, please email freefunandfood@nottinghamcity.gov.uk.

Share this post!