Free school meals for most in need to continue over summer

The scheme's extension will cover the period from June until when school restarts on August 11.

Children eligible for free school meals will continue to get them during the summer holidays, Nicola Sturgeon has confirmed.

The extension of the scheme will cover the period from the end of June to the start of the new school term in Scotland on August 11.

The First Minister said an extra £12.6m would be given to councils to continue free meals over the summer for children from the most vulnerable families as well as all P1-P3 pupils.

Meals are distributed to qualifying either at schools with open catering facilities or through cash or voucher payments.

The Scottish Government announcement came shortly before UK ministers U-turned in order to continue the free school meals voucher scheme in England.

Boris Johnson’s government had tabled an amendment blocking a Labour proposal to extend the scheme over the summer, but the Prime Minister announced on Tuesday he would now back the measure.

It comes after a high-profile campaign from England and Manchester United footballer Marcus Rashford, who came in for praise from Sturgeon at her daily coronavirus briefing.

Addressing food poverty in Scotland, the First Minister said: “We know families are under considerable financial pressure just now and free school meals are a vital help to many but they’re also really important to the health and well-being of children.

“We will provide £12.6m in funding to local authorities to enable the continuation of free school meals during the period from the end of June to the start of the new term in August.”

She said the funding will be allocated “in a way that allows councils, as many of them do, to co-ordinate school meal provision with wider support that they make available to families”.

An additional £15m will also be made available to councils to continue to provide support to those in severe poverty or who face other barriers to accessing food, Sturgeon added.

It follows £30m of funding from the Scottish Government at the start of the pandemic to support free school meals as well as the provision of food for older people, those with medical conditions and pregnant women.

Speaking later on Tuesday afternoon, Boris Johnson’s official spokesman said: “Owing to the coronavirus pandemic the Prime Minister fully understands that children and parents face an entirely unprecedented situation over the summer.

“To reflect this we will be providing a Covid summer food fund. This will provide food vouchers covering the six-week holiday period.

“This is a specific measure to reflect the unique circumstances of the pandemic.

“The scheme will not continue beyond the summer and those eligible will be those who already qualify for free school meals.”

Labour leader Keir Starmer tweeted: “This is another welcome u-turn from Boris Johnson.

“The thought of 1.3 million children going hungry this summer was unimaginable.

“Well done to @MarcusRashford and many others who spoke out so powerfully about this issue. #HolidaysWithoutHunger”.

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