Year-round school meals to tackle ‘holiday hunger’
A Scottish council is planning to provide school meals 365 days a year to children from low income families.
North Lanarkshire Council said its proposal would help tackle “holiday hunger”.
The “Food 365” programme would cover the 175 days of the year when lunches are not served in school.
The council will run a pilot project in the spring break and, if approved, extend the scheme over the summer holidays.
Frank McNally, convener of education, said: “These proposals to tackle weekend and holiday hunger are the most ambitious in the country.
‘Parents skip meals’
“Groups like the Trussell Trust are struggling to cope with demand from parents and research has suggested that pressure on food banks doubles during the holidays.
“North Lanarkshire has one of the highest concentrations of deprivation in the country and this is only going to be exacerbated by further welfare reforms.”
The council cited national research which suggests that almost a third of parents with incomes under £25,000 skip meals during the school holidays so that their children can eat, and nearly two thirds are not always able to afford food outside of term time.
This rises to half and three-quarters respectively for parents with incomes under £15,000.
In a survey carried out by the National Union of Teachers in England, 80% of teachers noted a rise in “holiday hunger” where children return from holidays suffering from poor nutrition.
Almost three-quarters of teachers said this was negatively affecting children’s education.
While some councils in the UK have committed to holiday programmes, these do not include weekends. North Lanarkshire Council said its scheme would be the most comprehensive in the country.
Mr McNally continued: “A good diet plays a key role in healthy growth and development, supporting learning and social skills and sets a positive habit to be continued later in life.
‘High levels of deprivation’
“Our plans will do much to promote healthy eating and address some of the symptoms of poverty for children who need it most.”
North Lanarkshire is one of the nine “challenge authorities” in Scotland with the highest levels of deprivation. Nearly 21% of children live in low income households.
If the pilot is successful, the programme would be delivered in 23 “hubs” across the authority area, usually in community facilities.
Based on demand for other previous holiday initiatives, the cost is estimated to be £500,000.
The proposals will be discussed by councillors at a meeting of the education committee on 20 February.