Nottinghamshire County Council has pledged more free-school meals to vulnerable children ahead of next week’s half-term break.

The voucher system was introduced back in November as part of the council’s wider Household Support Fund which aims to support families who are struggling financially.

Over £2 million has been allocated towards the free school meals scheme, which will be in place until the end of March, 2022.

The value of the free-school voucher was originally £15, however this has been doubled to £30 to help support families with the increases in costs of living.

It’s believed 125,000 vouchers will be handed out over the next week to around 25,000 young people across the county.

Jacqueline Sainsbury, Headmaster of The Florence Nightingale Academy, on the struggles faced by some of the families at her school 

Jacqueline Sainsbury, who is the head of the Florence Nightingale Academy, in Eastwood, has welcomed the county council’s free school meal vouchers as well as the uplift in value.

“We set up a food bank at the start of the pandemic, but the meal vouchers are absolutely crucial. It will make a huge difference between young people having enough to eat, and not having enough to eat.

“We have some big families (at the Florence Nightingale Academy), so the voucher scheme could help cover the cost of their weekly food shop,” she added.

“We (as a school) know that when they come back to school from their half-term break, they would have had access to some food.

“It’s really important especially with the rise in energy prices, sadly one of our families had to switch off their electricity last month to save some money. But they’ve been given vouchers to support them,” she said.

“It’s a great scheme, but I do believe personally that this voucher scheme needs to be extended though, hopefully by another two years.”

“It’s important that we keep helping the families through these challenging times”
Cllr Tracey Taylor, Nottinghamshire County Council

Tracey Taylor is the Chair of the Children’s Committee at Nottinghamshire County Council, and says it’s important families with little disposable income are supported in the best way as possible.

She said, “Throughout the pandemic, we’ve been looking at ways at supporting people, one of the identified needs was that of free-school meals outside of term-time.”

“We’re still not living in the way we did before the pandemic, we still have plenty of constraints. So it’s important that we can keep helping the families during these challenging times, until we have some more sense of normality,” she added

“Through the schools we are identifying those children who need it most. But if there are families who are really struggling, I would encourage them to apply for the grant.”

Cllr Tracey Taylor praises the work of Nottinghamshire schools in distributing the funds.

It’s estimated around 104,000 people were on universal credit in Nottinghamshire back in December 2021 (Source, UK Government).

Free school meals has been a widely debated topic over the Coronavirus Pandemic. The government had originally plan to end them over half-term holidays in 2020, however they would reverse that decision after pressure from the public groups, as well as their own MPs.

Manchester United and England footballer Marcus Rashford also campaigned for free-school meals, working with charities and supermarket to deliver food packages to children. He was recognised for his work with young people with an MBE back in November 2021.

School’s in Nottinghamshire broke up for half-term today (11th February), and will be off until the 21st February.