The Mayor of London Sadiq Khan has introduced emergency food provision over the weekends and school holidays to help feed low-income families. Funding of over £3m will provide essential support to local community organisations, serving free holiday and weekend meals to the Londoners who need it most. The scheme will continue until March 2024.
Local activities for children and young people will be hosted across London over the holidays, with free food available at these events. These might be run by local schools, faith settings, leisure centres, libraries, community centres or adventure playgrounds. Local councils will also have information about activities and support for families over the holidays. Find out more here.
Many councils across England have decided to create their own meal schemes during the school holidays, financed by the household support fund. This is a grant of £500 million distributed between local authorities to help households who need it most.
In Surrey for example, a £90 voucher will be funded to cover the summer holiday period per each eligible child. In Essex, families who are eligible for free meals will receive a £75 voucher to cover the summer holidays, which you can use in most supermarkets. You can find out what support is available through your local council’s website.
Many councils are relying on the Holiday Activities and Food Programme to support low-income families over the Easter holidays. This is funded by the government and provides “healthy food and enriching activities” to children who are eligible for free school meals. Councils are working with a range of organisations to provide free spots on their schemes.
This could be at a drama group, dance camp, sports club or other play groups. Over summer, all participating children should be offered a minimum of four weeks of face-to-face provision, covering a minimum of 16 days. Those days should be at least four hours long and eligible children will receive at least one free, nutritious meal each day.
Are free school meals available in Scotland over the school holidays?
Some councils across Scotland are offering free school meal payments to low-income families over the school holidays.
Universal free school meals for children in primary 1 to 5 will not be available over the holidays – but the Scottish government does fund free school meals over the school holidays for families with income-based eligibility.
You’ll need to check your local council’s website to find out how to apply and the amount that is available will depend on where you live.
For example, in Edinburgh, families have received a free school meals holiday payment of £85. This was paid on 23 June. In Glasgow, payments to assist with meals during the summer break will be £87.50 per child. These are typically paid automatically, and you don’t have to contact your council to get the payment.
Can I get free school meals in Wales over the summer holidays?
Free school meals have been provided throughout the school holidays in Wales since 2020, and it seems likely that it will be the same over the summer holidays in 2023, but this has not yet been confirmed by the Welsh government.
Councils in Wales typically provide low-income families with meal vouchers, money or packed lunches to cover the full period of the school holidays.
Are free school meals being offered in Northern Ireland over the summer holidays?
Free school meals are not expected to be provided in Northern Ireland over the summer holidays. Earlier this year, the government in Northern Ireland axed “holiday hunger” payments for children entitled to free school meals.
Families of 96,000 children have received payments of £27 every fortnight during the school holidays since 2020. But the scheme did not go ahead this Easter.
The Department for Education said that from April 1 “additional ring-fenced funding has ended and therefore school holiday food grants can no longer be made”. Campaigners called this decision “abhorrent”.
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