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15 October 2020

As the Covid-19 pandemic plays havoc with family incomes, analysis by the Food Foundation released as part of footballer Marcus Rashford’s campaign to end child food poverty, estimates that as many as 900,000 more children have sought free school meals, on top of the 1.4 million who were already claiming. The deepening economic crisis was illustrated by, the big increases in registrations from families that did not normally claim for free school meals.

With school meals costing roughly £45 a month per child, ministers are being urged to prevent a growing food insecurity crisis, by widening the eligibility for free lunches to all children up to the age of 16. As many struggling families are unable to claim free school meals because they are ineligible for social security benefits. With others suffering big cuts in household income, but still do not meet the lunch support threshold. A key recommendation of the National Food Plan published in July was widening access for free school meals, it said 1.5 million more seven to 16 year olds in households claiming universal credit should get free school lunches.

Since March, Suffolk county council reported a 15% rise in free school meal registrations and Blackpool council have shown a 21% increase over the same period. The head teacher at Anderton Park primary in Birmingham, said the proportion of pupils claiming free school lunches had risen from 35% to 47% in September. The Department for Education said it was anticipating a rise in free school meal registrations, when the next set of official figures are published in December.

We have seen a similar trend here in Leeds with numbers of free school meal claims increasing at an accelerated rate, almost 6 months ahead of predictions pre-COVID.

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Don’t forgot the Leeds free school meal toolkit is available to order and provides schools and frontline staff with a clear, current and comprehensive guide to free school meals.

The resource also includes a range of resources and tools to help you maximise take-up and pupil premium, such as posters, surveys, a parent’s meeting plan, letter templates and even text messages.

You can order a copy at