City Catering Southampton supported Make Lunch volunteers during February half-term, serving 110 meals to children and their families at Valentine Primary School.

Pupils who receive free school meals during term time are often left without a hot meal during the school holidays, and this event was one of many across the UK that aims to fight holiday hunger and provide a support network to the families that need it most. A recent report by the All Party Parliamentary Group on Hunger* found that children were returning to school in a worse educational, health, and developmental state than that in which they had left in the summer.

As many as 3 million children face the risk of food insecurity, and the increase in the number of families relying on food banks during school holidays (compared with other parts of the year) demonstrates the challenges those families face outside of term time.

Rachel Hall, CEO of City Catering Southampton: “With 18% of school children in Southampton receiving free school meals, 5,727 primary and secondary pupils could be eating fewer hot meals during half term as families deal with extra demands placed on household budgets during school holidays.

From 10AM until 1PM, children enjoyed designing cupcakes, while volunteers distributed food donations, ensuring parents could take home essentials that would support them during the break.

For lunch, a classic meal of sausages, mash, and beans was served with a Swiss roll and custard or chocolate mousse for dessert.

The government has promised research and pilots into local interventions to explore how local authorities can support disadvantaged families. On Friday 19 January the School Holiday Meals and Activities Bill began its second reading in parliament. This particular bill would require local authorities to support the delivery of free meals and activates to children during school holidays.

This debate will resume in April; however, a positive step forward was announced by the new Under Secretary of State for Education, Nadhim Zahawi who will be launching ‘Pilots and Research’ on a small scale this summer, and in earnest next year.

Families that receive free school meals are encouraged to register for Make Lunch events during the Easter break, via their children’s schools. For more information visit www.tlg.org.uk.

Report

*Hungry Holidays – A report on hunger amongst children during school holidays: https://feedingbritain.files.wordpress.com/2015/02/hungry-holidays.pdf