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Lanarkshire council to feed children during school holidays after research shows families going hungry

Plan aims to tackle 'weekend and holiday hunger'

Jane Dalton
Friday 16 February 2018 15:42 GMT
Those who qualify will be offered free lunches seven days a week, all year round
Those who qualify will be offered free lunches seven days a week, all year round (PA)

Children from low-income families will be given free school meals during the holidays as well as in term-time, under a Scottish council plan.

The year-round free meals idea is aimed at tackling "weekend and holiday hunger", covering the 175 days a year when pupils are not having lessons.

If the plan is passed, North Lanarkshire Council will be the first local authority in Scotland to introduce free meals throughout its area. It will extend the 190 days of meals that it offers at the moment, creating the "most comprehensive" system in Britain.

The council said research suggests nearly a third of parents earning under £25,000 skip meals in the holidays so their children can eat and almost two-thirds struggle to afford food at weekends and during school holidays.

The Food 365 scheme, which will be piloted in Coatbridge during the spring holiday, will be available to 16,000 pupils, costing an expected £500,000 a year.

The scheme is subject to approval by the council in a meeting on 20 February.

Frank McNally, a Labour councillor and council education convener, said: "These proposals to tackle weekend and holiday hunger are the most ambitious in the country. 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.

"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.

"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. More than one in five – nearly 21 per cent – of children live in low-income households.

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