Salford City Council needs funding to repeat a food help scheme which fed 3000 children over the summer.
The council set up the voucher scheme after their application to the Department for Education’s holiday hunger fund was rejected – one of a staggering 88% that were, a Freedom of Information request from The Guardian and Channel 4 News revealed.
The roughly £87,000 scheme was instead funded by the Salford Crisis Assist scheme and the Booth Charities, Salford, also made a substantial grant.
Deputy City Mayor Councillor Paula Boshell stressed the significance of the scheme in creating a “fairer and better Salford.”
“So many families, working or not, are struggling to afford the basics of life.
“Free school meals relieve some pressure on the family budget but during holidays families have to meet the costs themselves.
“We had good feedback on how easy it was to apply and there is a clear need for this kind of support. We are already discussing plans for next year and investigating sources of funding.”
Entitlement to free school meals is the only requirement to be eligible for the daily £30’s worth of vouchers, and the council received over 1000 applications in the first ten days.
They accepted all 2100 applications, which accounted for around 42% of children who take free school meals in Salford.
Those who did not apply will have used other schemes which offer free, healthy meal snacks, said Councillor Boshell, such as at Salford Community Leisure. These served over 4000 meals during the six weeks.
It’s about long-term help and solutions, she emphasised. The Salford Foodshare Network is shifting towards food clubs where members pay a small sum and receive double the value in food items which they choose themselves.
“This gives people more choice, and they are also supported with advice on benefits to ensure they’re claiming everything they’re entitled to,” she said.
Cabinet member for culture and leisure Luthfur Rahman also emphasised the need for longer-term solutions.
“Many organisations have come together, including the voluntary sector and schools to fill the [holiday hunger] gap, however this is a sticking plaster at best,” he said.
Holiday hunger is a growing problem in Manchester, with 2018 experiencing a 52% increase in demand on 2017.
The DfE announced this year it would quadruple spending on such programmes to £9 million.