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Welsh Government announces extra funding for free school meals to reduce cost of living pressure

12 Mar 2022 3 minute read
Image by Hans Braxmeier from Pixabay.

The Welsh Government has announced that it will be investing a further £24.1m to ensure children have access to free school meals throughout the school holidays.

Ministers confirmed yesterday that this is in addition to the existing £83m the Welsh government has already invested in provision of free school meals to more than 95,500 school children across Wales.

It includes a discretionary fund which schools can access to support children who may not normally be eligible for the free meals but who come to school hungry.

Speaking about the pressure families are under as a result of the UK wide cost-of-living crisis, First Minister Mark Drakeford said: “Too many are having to make terrible choices between heating or eating as prices soar. Our Labour government is doing everything it can to help people pay their bills and put food on the table.

“This extra funding for free school meals during the Easter, Whitsun and summer holidays will ensure children get a good meal even when they aren’t in school.”

Education minister Jeremy Miles added: “I want all children and young people in Wales to have access to healthy and nutritious food in school and during the holidays. No one should be going hungry.
“I’m very proud our Welsh Labour government can carry on the work we started during the pandemic and extend holiday provision through to the end of the summer holidays.

“This funding also includes a discretionary free school meal fund, which will allow schools to provide a free meal to pupils who come to school hungry, including those children who are not normally eligible for free school meals and those who have no recourse to public funding.”

‘Incredibly bold and positive step’

In November 2021 Welsh Labour and Plaid Cymru extended free school meal provision as part of the cooperation agreement, to include all primary age children in a move which was described as an ‘incredibly bold and positive step’ by Dr Victoria Winckler of the Bevan Foundation.

She said at the time: “In providing a hot, healthy lunch to every child, irrespective of their parents’ income, it goes much further than many campaigners’ wildest dreams.

“At a stroke it includes children from low-income families who previously missed out on a free meal because their parents are working.

“It gets rid of dinner money debt and scraps the stigma associated with getting a free lunch. And if that is not enough, it means that children get a healthy, hot meal at a formative stage in their development.

Campaigner and footballer Marcus Rashford has previously praised the Welsh Government for making free school meals available during term breaks at the height of the pandemic.

Demand has increased during the pandemic meaning more than 20% of children are now eligible for free school meals in Wales, the highest number since records began in 2003.

This new announcement comes as Wales prepares for the lifting of all legal coronavirus public health restrictions on March 28th.

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