"We are doing all we can" - Derbyshire County Council makes statement on free school meals following Marcus Rashford campaign

Derbyshire County Council has made a statement on what they are doing to support child poverty in the area over half term.

By Sam Ward
Tuesday, 27th October 2020, 11:50 am

Following Manchester United footballer Marcus Rashford’s campaign to extend free school meals over October half term, businesses, individuals and councils, including Chesterfield FC Trust, have stepped in to show their support for children in need and are serving up hundreds of free meals every day.

The England forward’s campaign even made it into government – with a Labour motion to extend free school meals until 20210 being rejected by 322 votes to 261.

Some local authorities across the country have stepped in during this period of uncertainty due to the pandemic to extend the free school meals over schools October half term, despite the Commons vote.

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Now, Derbyshire County Council have announced what they are doing to support those in need, including over £800,000 being invested to support those that have been impacted heavily by coronavirus, and support for ‘hunger clubs’ in the area.

A Derbyshire County Council spokesperson said: “Ensuring children and families do not go hungry has always been a priority of the county council and great efforts continue to be made to ensure that doesn’t happen in Derbyshire.

“We work closely with and provide funding to Feeding Derbyshire, a countywide partnership led by Rural Action Derbyshire, which works to support and feed people who are struggling either in debt or on low incomes, an issue heightened during the pandemic.

“Feeding Derbyshire supports a range of programmes including the school holiday food programme, community food banks and community kitchens across the county.

Council makes statement on support for child poverty

“Currently 15 holiday hunger clubs are being supported and it is estimated that between 1,300 and 1,500 children and young people will benefit from this during this half term.

“We gave £100,000 to Foundation Derbyshire to distribute to local food banks at the beginning of lockdown in March and we have just agreed to provide a further £150,000 to be distributed in the run up to Christmas.

“Additionally, we have provided £1million of community and business support back in March and recently announced £15million to aid the county’s recovery from the impact of covid-19.

“Earlier this year we received £808,000 from DEFRA to support people who were struggling to afford essentials due to the impact of coronavirus and of that £158,000 was spent on emergency food supplies and a further £40,000 directly on the school holiday food programme."

As well as this, the council has stated its support for foodbanks in the area, and free school meals – providing over 6,000 food boxes over the Easter holidays.

The council has now outlined its extension of this support over October half term, with a number of primary schools ordering food parcels for those that need the support.

“We work closely with more than 35 foodbanks across the county which are run by our partners in the voluntary, community and independent sector, and families who are struggling are given information about these or other support, including the Derbyshire Discretionary Fund (DDF), which is available to families in receipt of certain means tested benefits.

“Up to 12 October 2020 the Derbyshire Discretionary Fund has given support to 3,218 families with children during this financial year totalling £134,310.

“Across the county just over 23,800 children are eligible for free school meals (FSM) and the council has regular drives to promote and encourage parents and carers to ensure they are signed up so their children can receive them.

“At the beginning of the pandemic the government provided vouchers for families whose children were eligible for free school meals, and due to some difficulties with registering for the voucher scheme the council’s school catering service provided more than 6,000 food boxes to schools to distribute to families during the Easter holidays and around 1,000 food boxes during Whit week. Each box was worth the value of a week’s school meals per child and the council claimed the cost of providing these from the child’s FSM allowance.

“In addition to this, for this October half term, schools have been able to order food parcels from our schools catering service for their families who are eligible for FSM. Schools pay for this from their budget, and a total of 11 primary schools have purchased these for families.

Since that decision in the capital last week, hundreds of businesses nationally have shown their support for Marcus Rashford’s campaign.

The council spokesperson added: “There are also many local businesses and individuals who are also offering support in their local areas.

“We believe we are doing all we can to ensure that children in Derbyshire do not go hungry during school holidays and would urge people who are struggling to visit our website and look for information which can help them.

“We will continue to keep under review how best to support children and young people within our resources and will look to base our approach on other national support available.”

Many businesses and community organisations are now offering meals to those in need – visit schoolmealfinder.org for more information.

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