A scheme to help ease ‘holiday hunger’ amongst children in parts of South Ribble is to be extended after a successful trial over the summer.
Families of children on free school meals in the Broadfield area were given vouchers during the six-week school break which entitled them to enough food to provide packed lunch-style meals every weekday.
More than 230 food parcels were handed out, with each designed to cover several days’ worth of lunches.
South Ribble Borough Council’s cabinet has now agreed to roll out the programme in three other areas – Bamber Bridge, Wade Hall and Kingsfold, where up to 42 percent of children are registered for free school meals.
“Nothing better illustrates the gap between the haves and the have nots than sections of our population having to make the choice between eating and heating – and sometimes having to go without both,” said deputy Labour council leader Mick Titherington.
“It’s not the fault of the families, who often feel a stigma, but society for allowing it to happen.”
Members heard that efforts to reduce the risk of such a stigma being felt had been a key part of the Broadfield pilot scheme. Vouchers were distributed via primary and secondary schools, meaning that the community centre through which the food parcels were supplied did not have to ask “intrusive questions” about eligibility.
Feedback from parents described the project as “a God-send” and the staff as being “very approachable”.
The council contributed just over £1,100 to the cost of the scheme, while the charities Fareshare and Key Unlocking Futures donated additional food and volunteer time. The authority has now committed £60,000 to its holiday hunger scheme over the next four years.
Deputy Conservative opposition leader Caroline Moon cautioned that children who do not meet the current criteria might also be in need.
“There are areas of the borough which may appear affluent from the outside looking in, but where children need this help. We have got to start somewhere, but we must make sure we capture every child,” Cllr Moon said.
Papers presented to cabinet indicated that the scheme could be extended further than the four areas specifically identified, if evidence of need emerged.
The council is also planning to support the creation of a so-called “pantry project” in partnership with the charity Christians Against Poverty. The co-operative-style schemes offer food to the value of about £15 for weekly membership of £2.50.
One member of an existing pantry elsewhere in the county said it was far preferable to having attend a food bank.
“With the food bank, I feel like I’m lowering myself – I’d rather go without food.
“It’s also local so people I know are there. But the pantry feels different because you have paid and you are making a choice about the food you take home.”