LB Hounslow to fund free school meals over half-term

26 October, 2020 / by Matt Smith

Images above: Chiswick School head teacher Laura Ellener delivering food parcels during lockdown

LB Hounslow will be funding free school meals for children and eligible young people over the October half-term. The council issued a statement about their plans to feed hungry children on Friday 23 October, following similar announcements from businesses and local authorities across the UK.

Kensington & Chelsea, Lambeth and Hackney are amongst some of London’s boroughs which have also put forward plans to fund free school meals.

Last week, the Government voted against a motion in the House of Commons made by the Labour Party, which would have extended provision of hot food for children from poorer families until Easter 2021.

In the aftermath of the vote, the Government has been on the receiving end of widespread condemnation and is under sustained pressure from Marcus Rashford MBE’s reignited national campaign to end child food poverty.

A petition started by Mr Rashford, which is asking for the Government to support vulnerable children by ‘expanding access to free school meals, provide meals & activities during holidays to stop holiday hunger’ has reached 876,412 at time of writing. You can find the petition here.

As part of the #EndChildFoodPoverty campaign, Marcus Rashford has been posting businesses, charities and local authorities that are supplying food to on his Twitter page. Below is his tweet featuring Hounslow Council.

‘Sharp increase’ in child poverty

The figures on child poverty in Britain are that 4.2 million children are in relative child poverty (2.4 million of whom in absolute poverty, 3.7 million in absolute poverty after housing costs) and 72% of those kids living in poverty are in working households. 2.5m live in ‘food insecure’ households.

It’s a problem which already existed before the pandemic and has only got worse.

Cllr Tom Bruce, Cabinet Member for Education, Children and Youth Services on Hounslow Council, said: “It was incredibly disappointing that the Government chose not to support children and young people who may be going hungry this half-term.

“The coronavirus pandemic has contributed to a sharp increase in child poverty and without school dinners many children do not have access to decent meals.

“I’m delighted that we’ve been able to step in to fund the provision of free school meals to try to ensure that no children in Hounslow will be going hungry. We’re also committed to making sure no child goes without over Christmas either.”

Donations to Chiswick School

Laura Ellener, Head teacher of Chiswick School, said she was inspired by Marcus Rashford’s campaign and also by the actions of parents who had immediately come to her with donations, which she said is “indicative of the community spirit of Chiswick School”.

Chiswick School has decided to reopen its fundraising campaign to support those children who attend the school and are entitled to free school meals. The aim is to provide these families with a supermarket voucher of the value of a free school meal per day.

“No child should have to go hungry” she said. “If we can raise £10,000 that will help us to give 350 Chiswick School children a meal every day in the school holidays. If we can raise more, that will help us to support other Chiswick schools. We know that child poverty is a huge issue and even more so now that people are losing their jobs and finding it difficult to make ends meet.”

During the Summer term the school raised over £10,000 pounds which enabled them to provide food parcels, fridges and even a bike to disadvantaged families as well as ensuring 150 children with no computers at home had a device that they could use. Anyone wishing to donate can do so by visiting the school website – www.chiswickschool.org

The London Borough of Hounslow who have recently published ‘A Borough Plan for Recovery’ have said 40% of the Hounslow workforce is now unemployed or on furlough and many children are being affected in the second stage of the pandemic.

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