16,000 Croydon schoolchildren get food packages over Easter

Canned food. Pic: Emily-Rose Payne

Thousands of Croydon schoolchildren will receive food packages over the Easter Holidays as the Government extends the Holiday Activities and Food Programme.

Apart from food packages, Croydon Council is also offering grants to all schools in the borough in the form of supermarket vouchers; this will allow them to create Easter food and activity boxes.

The Government grant has been accepted by 54 schools in the borough. Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Thérèse Coffey, said: “This scheme has helped thousands of vulnerable children stay warm and well-fed during the coldest months of the year.

Nearly 16,000 schoolchildren, who would normally receive free school meals, will receive a £30 supermarket voucher on top of the Governments food packages. Croydon Council’s public health Covid-19 response budget will be part-funding the Easter holiday support.

Over 1.4 million children across the nation claimed free school meals in January 2020. The Food Foundation estimated that an extra 900,000 pupils sought free school meals after Covid-19 affected parents’ income.

After the government voted against extended the Holiday Activities and Food Programme, professional Manchester United footballer, Marcus Rashford, campaigned for food vouchers that would help millions of children across the United Kingdom. The support from the public pushed the government to extend the food voucher scheme into April 2021.

The prime minister’s official spokesperson released a statement in January 2021 saying that the packages contain “food that parents can use to make healthy lunches throughout the week”. However, posts on social media at the time showed food parcels worth just £5.

We need action at national level to solve the problem of child poverty

Peter Underwood, Green Party candidate for Sutton and Croydon constituency, told Eastlondonlines: “Children who would normally be given a free school meal five days per week are being given a package to make four meals and a £30 voucher to last the Easter Holiday.

“This is clearly not enough. And if the food packages are anything like the disgraceful ones we’ve seen previously then that will be even worse.

“Croydon community groups and some local businesses have been brilliant in stepping up to feed children in the borough during previous holidays. While this has been a great support for those families it really shouldn’t be necessary.”

Underwood added: “The Government has wasted billions over the last year… buying more nuclear weapons that we will never use.  We need a Government whose priorities include doing the best for the children of this country.”

Croydon Council has also announced that they will provide food support in summer and winter breaks for the remainder of the year.

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