Thousands of local families are receiving £30 supermarket vouchers this week to help with the cost of food over the Christmas school holiday.
Rotherham Council is funding the scheme for families with the near 12,000 local children entitled to benefits-related free school meals. The vouchers are being distributed by schools on behalf of the Council.
The Council has been funding food vouchers for children during every school holiday since October 2020 after the Government ended a national scheme it established during the pandemic.
The value of the vouchers equate to the amount it costs to provide a meal for each child (£3 per day) when they are in school.
Since January 2020, the number of children in Rotherham entitled to means-tested free school meals has risen by more than a third, from 8,557 to 11,937, as the impact of the pandemic, followed by soaring inflation has hit family budgets hard.
The total cost of providing the support this Christmas is over £350,000.
Councillor Victoria Cusworth, Cabinet Member for Children and Young People said: “Our support for families with children eligible for free school meals will not solve the growing problem of food poverty which is affecting more and more people, but it does at least provide some respite for residents really struggling to make ends meet. Many parents tell us that the help provided during school holidays is a lifeline.”
“Everyone is being impacted by the cost of living crisis and the spiralling cost of food. But only families on the lowest incomes – both employed and unemployed – are eligible for free school meals under the Government-set criteria, so we know this support is being targeted at children from families on the very lowest incomes.”
Details on the eligibility for free school meals and how to claim is available on the Council’s website here The Council is also supporting foodbanks and local voluntary groups to combat food poverty.
£115,000 has been provided to foodbanks across the borough to purchase essential food and non-food items which are low in stock. And £44,000 has been given to help local voluntary groups who are collating Christmas food hampers for around 500 vulnerable households.
A package of local support is available to people most severely affected by the cost of living crisis, including help towards energy costs. Further information on the support available, together with other money-saving advice and help is available on the Council’s website here