16,000 children across Wolverhampton will benefit from free school meals this half term after the city council stepped in to provide support.

The council today (Friday 23 October) announced that any child who currently receives free school meals will be eligible to continue receiving support over half term next week.

£250,000 has been made available for the scheme.

Due to tight timescales to get the scheme operational, it will be administered jointly by some city schools who will distribute vouchers as well as a return of the council’s emergency food distribution hub which will supply food parcels directly to households.

Text messages have been sent out to the parents/guardians of children who receive free school meals advising them how they can receive support.  

Councillor Ian Brookfield, leader of City of Wolverhampton Council, said: “No child should go hungry in this country or in our city.  

“In Wolves, we ‘look after our own’. The pandemic has hit struggling city families hard and we will not allow the 16,000 children who rely on free school meals to go without food this half term.  

“Our schools have been absolutely fantastic in their response to this pandemic and we are working closely with them to deliver this scheme. They have been a beacon of light, in dark times.

“This underlines our commitment to giving our children and young people the best possible start in life. That begins with getting the basics right, a good stable home and food on the table.

“Finally, I want to commend the dignified campaign of the footballer Marcus Rashford for bringing the scandal of food poverty to a wider audience.”

Wolverhampton currently has 16,000 primary and secondary pupils who are eligible for free school meals – or around 36% of all local pupils. This is far above the national average of 17%.

The figure is expected to increase further due to the Covid-19 pandemic causing increased hardship and rising unemployment.

Many children who receive free school meals come from households where parents/guardians are in work, but low pay makes it hard to make ends meet.  

The council has made ensuring residents in need receive food a priority during the pandemic, delivering more than a million meals to vulnerable people who were shielding at home.

Last week, the council announced that it would continue delivering food parcels to the city’s network of food banks until Christmas.

Any parent or guardian of a school age child who lives in Wolverhampton and is normally entitled to free school meals who has not been contacted directly by their school offering a voucher can request support this half term by visiting Free School Meals 26-30 October or by calling 01902 290241 (9am to 1pm Saturday and Sunday) to sign up.