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Councils urged to feed Gloucester's hungry children

October 25, 2020 8:52 AM

Hungry childThe Liberal Democrats are calling on the county and city councils to support hungry children in Gloucester failed by the Government's decision not to fund school meals through the half-term school holidays.

After a high-profile campaign led by footballer Marcus Rashford, the Government provided food vouchers for the poorest families through the summer holidays.

But in October, Conservative MPs voted against extending free school meals to future holidays.

In Gloucestershire there are over 8,000 pupils in receipt of free school meals - but many will be eligible as children in EYFS and years one and two are entitled to claim them, irrespective of family circumstances.

But figures show there are 2,762 pupils in secondary schools across the county in receipt of free school meals.

In Gloucester, in 2018/19 there were 3,327 children living in families described as "absolute low income" - meaning they cannot afford essentials needed to have a decent standard of living.

Many of these children will be in receipt of free school meals.

The Liberal Democrats are fighting to ensure every child living in poverty has access to free school meals in holidays and periods of lockdown.

Community groups and foodbanks across Gloucester have come together to help those families struggling in the city.

Among them is The Friends of Elmbridge group which has raised over £700 to buy food vouchers for children in Elmbridge and Longlevens schools.

And in Barnwood, Councillor Joanne Brown has collected Fareshare food every week for distribution to those in need in the local area, which will continue into the winter.

Sarah Sawyer, chair of The Friends of Elmbridge, said: "The Covid-19 crisis has hit the poorest families hardest and we need to ensure vulnerable children are not paying the price for that.

"The pandemic has shown us all how important it is that we look out for those in our community.

"The Government should be ashamed of themselves in not supporting the poorest families in the city with food for their children over the half term and future holidays.

"It's shocking MP Richard Graham voted against funding meals for the most vulnerable children in our city during a pandemic.

"The Friends of Elmbridge group is helping to help some those in desperate need in Gloucester.

"It should not be left to community groups to do the work of the county and city councils.

"We want the councils to step in with where the Government has failed and guarantee to provide families of children with food tokens to cover the Christmas period."

Councillor Joanne Brown, who represents Barnwood ward on the city council, said: "We want to see the county and city councils develop a long-term plan for Christmas and the school holidays next year.

"What if schools have to close again for lockdown? Child hunger is a long-term problem. It won't go away when we beat this virus.

"It is a travesty for any child to go hungry, on any day of the year - whether during the school term or the holidays.

"This Conservative Government won't change their mind and do the decent thing without being forced to.

"Please sign our petition calling for them to help local families."

Please sign our petition to ensure those families get the help they need, not just as a one-off but as part of a long-term plan to end child hunger.

The petition can be signed at: https://gloucester-libdems.org.uk/en/petition/extend-free-school-meals

If you need help please contact https://gloucester.foodbank.org.uk/ or https://www.facebook.com/pages/category/Community/Gloucester-Feed-The-Hungry-1765597536990249/