The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, today urged the Government to ensure children from low-income families can receive food during school holidays as the cost-of-living crisis continues to hit families hard.
Sadiq announced last week an emergency funding package of more than £3.5m to help provide around 10m free meals during school holidays and at weekends to low-income Londoners over the next year. Today, he will visit the Bubble and Squeak community hub in Hammersmith, which is supporting low-income Londoners this Easter holiday with funding from City Hall.
At the hub, Sadiq will meet young children and their families who will be preparing their own lunches, and young people enjoying a free meal and taking part in arts and crafts, as part of a series of activities taking place at the hub this Easter.
The Mayor’s one-off funding is expanding the work of the Mayor’s Fund for London and The Felix Project to help charities, schools and grassroots organisations reach hundreds of thousands of struggling families and children of all ages with free nutritious meals.
It includes £3.1m to the Mayor’s Fund for London and the Felix Project to expand their ready-made and cook-at-home meal provision during school holidays, with a further £425,000 to The Felix Project to expand its capacity, and allow it to deliver food on Saturdays, as well as during the week.
The London free holiday meals funding follows an historic announcement in February from the Mayor to provide an emergency £130m to provide free school meals to primary school children in London due to the cost of living.
Sadiq has repeatedly called on the Government to do more to tackle the spiralling cost of living and the challenge of children going hungry, and is urging Ministers to provide sufficient funding to ensure children in need can receive food during school holidays, both in London and across the country.
Currently the Government provides food for children only who are eligible for free school meals through the Holiday Activities and Food Programme. The funding to councils is also insufficient and the eligibility criteria for free school meals too low to ensure the support stretches far enough.
The Government’s current eligibility criteria also excludes approximately half of children in food-insecure households in London because they are not claiming or are not eligible – the Mayor is calling on Ministers to change this as a matter of urgency.
The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said: “It is a national disgrace that so many children are going hungry during school holidays in a country as prosperous as ours. The cost of living and food prices are continuing to rise sharply and it means that increasing numbers of families are struggling to get by. That’s why I have stepped forward with funding to help provide around 10m free holiday meals to hundreds of thousands of Londoners most in need over the next year, as part of my work to address the cost of living. I’m doing all I can, but we urgently need Government to do more to help those in need and ensure that every child who needs it can access meals over the holidays.”
Dame Helen Mirren DBE said: “As a proud ambassador of the Mayor’s Fund for London, I am delighted that the Mayor has announced funding for free holiday meals for Londoners in need. This partnership will help to deliver 10 million meals over the next year. So many families are struggling to get by and are worrying about how to feed their children during the school holidays, so the Mayor’s free holiday meals will make such a difference.”
Chef Tom Kerridge said: “It’s vital that children are able to access healthy and nutritious food throughout the year, but many households and families do not know how they can provide this right now due to the pressures they are facing. I’m pleased that the Mayor’s free holiday meals scheme will help those who need it the most in the capital.”
Elly Harrington, Director, Bubble and Squeak, said: “We look forward to seeing the impact of the extra funding in our community. Programmes such as Kitchen Social and the Take & Make boxes give us an opportunity to support more children and their families with nutritious food during the school holidays. The cost of living crisis is impacting those families who have the least. Our organisation Bubble & Squeak operates in an increasingly challenging funding space as more grass roots organisations are looking for funding to support their community with food programmes. We welcome the support from this announcement to help us tackle holiday hunger in our community.”
Jade Harris, Head of Food and Wellbeing, Mayor’s Fund for London said: “This investment is a lifeline for young people urgently needing access to food support this Easter and beyond via the Mayor’s Fund for London’s community network across the capital. Funding for our Kitchen Social programme and Take & Make food boxes means that the over 400,000 young people experiencing food insecurity – inclusive of some young people who do not qualify for free school meals – will be able to receive nutritious food as the cost of living crisis deepens.”
Charlotte Hill OBE, CEO at The Felix Project said: “We know many parents are struggling to afford to put food on the table and rely on school food banks to top up their weekly shop, alongside free school meals for those who are eligible. When schools are closed families face increased costs and more stress trying to make sure they have enough to feed their children. That is why it is vital food provision continues during school holidays. We are delighted to receive this incredible support from the Mayor of London and be working with The Mayor’s Fund for London so we can provide this lifeline for the next year. I hope it will help low-income families to reduce the ever-increasing pressure on their budgets.”