Pledge to support families in school holidays

Somerset County Council has today issued a plea for families in need of urgent food supplies to contact the Coronavirus helpline and confirmed it is stepping up its efforts to provide more school holiday support with a £125,000 scheme.

At the same time, the Council continues to lobby government for further funding.

Currently the council works alongside community organisations and businesses to provide much needed meals and food for families most at need.

But families who are struggling can contact the Coronavirus helpline, run by all councils in Somerset, to ask for support. That number is: 0300 790 6275

And with demand likely to increase ahead of school holidays, Christmas and throughout the winter SCC is spending a further £125,000 to provide crucial meals and funding across the county.

This will see school caterers expected to produce 26,000 meals by Christmas, and partners Fareshare hoping to bring 140 tonnes of food to supplement Somerset’s brilliant community groups and food banks.

“I am so glad we have had the foresight to prepare for the really significant challenge to come this winter and that is where are efforts will continue to be made,” said leader of Somerset County Council David Fothergill.

“We have a strong and sustainable plan in place that will help many thousands of children get the food they need, when the need it. I am determined that this council will do all it can to prevent children going hungry through this very challenging Christmas and winter period. And that plan has the backing and support of our amazing community groups – and also business leaders in Somerset. I can’t thank them enough for stepping up in crucial time for our children.”

Somerset County Council already has a strong record in supporting families and children eligible for free school meals during the pandemic. During the two-week Easter holidays, more than 1000 school hampers were supplied to school children in need.

During the summer holiday the government funded the £15/week cost per pupil for free school means. The full cost of providing this service through all school holidays is around £2.2m – currently the government funding for ALL Coronavirus food support including distribution is around £500,000.

“We are already lobbying government to increase this level of funding. It is an issue that has been raised and I am sure government are looking closely at helping counties like our own,” said Cllr Fothergill.

NOTE TO EDITORS

There are currently 11,000 pupils in state-funded schools in Somerset eligible for free school meals – around 15% of the school population

The cost of providing free school meals through school holidays is around £15/week per pupil however that funding was not provided for other school holidays.