Lincolnshire County Council won’t directly subsidise free school meals during half term, but it also has “no intention of leaving vulnerable children hungry” after opposition leaders challenged them.
Labour Party leader at the authority Councillor Rob Parker has written to Conservative leader Martin Hill urging him to “do the right thing and commit funds so that Lincolnshire children do not go hungry”.
“There is great concern across England about the absence of provision of free school meals to low income families over the half term holidays, and Lincolnshire is no exception,” he said.
He pointed to the fact a number of English councils of all parties had “stepped into the gap” and pledged to fund schemes.
“To date Lincolnshire County Council has remained silent on the matter and as far as I can tell has made no arrangements to ensure that children in low income families do not go hungry during the holidays through no fault of their own,” he said.
According to council officers, the cost for providing free school meals to about 20,000 eligible Lincolnshire children will be about £300,000 for each week of holiday – around £3 per meal.
Councillor Martin Hill responded: “We have no intention of leaving vulnerable children or anyone else to go hungry over holiday periods.
“The government has made substantial additional financial support to low income families to further help them in these difficult times.”
He said £835,000 already received from government to support vulnerable had been allocated, including £400,000 to the Lincolnshire Food Partnership to support local food banks, and £215,000 to the Community Lincs Programme run by the YMCA.
The council has also responded to the COVID-19 pandemic by giving the Lincolnshire Resilience Forum £217,000 to bulk purchase food stock to support vulnerable residents.
“As always we will respond to requests for support positively and if there are children in need we will of course act immediately to keep them safe,” he said.
He said people who need help can contact the authority by visiting www.lincolnshire.gov.uk/childrenshealth or calling 01522 782030.
Additionally, to find details of local food banks visit www.lincolnfoodpartnership.org/
Other schemes can be found at www.maphub.net/LincsGNS/lincs-gns
A list of businesses providing free school meals in Lincolnshire can be found here.