Government u-turns on free summer school meals

UNISON welcomes decision to provide funding for free school meals during the summer

Staff serving school meals to pupils

In a win for families across the UK, the government has agreed to fund school meals over the six-week summer holidays, to make sure that no child goes hungry.

The campaign to extend free school meals over the summer was led by the School Food Plan, an alliance of organisations that UNISON is part of. Footballer Marcus Rashford has become a recent champion of the campaign and pushed the government to extend its funding.

Before lockdown, 1.3 million children were eligible for free school meals. Now, with unemployment growing, even more families are reliant on financial support to make sure their children don’t go hungry.

In lockdown, many schools have used a supermarket voucher system to provide families with the funds they need to feed their children. These funds were available to families over the Easter holidays and recent half term, but the government planned to stop them before the summer holidays.

After an urgent appeal from Mr Rashford yesterday, the government has today released an additional £120m into a one-off “COVID summer food fund”.

It’s thought parents will be offered a one-off voucher to cover all six weeks of the summer holiday, worth £15 per week per child.

UNISON General Secretary Dave Prentis said:

“No child should ever go hungry because of government inaction.

“Marcus Rashford’s inspirational and powerful campaign has helped make the Prime Minister see sense and ensure funding for free school meals over the summer holidays. It was the right thing to do.

“The school food service provided by UNISON members can continue to make such a difference to the lives of so many families.”