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Drive to combat children’s holiday hunger in Devon gets £250,000 boost

Almost 17,000 food vouchers worth over a quarter of a million pounds are being distributed to families this half-term as Devon County Council continues to combat holiday hunger.

Families of children currently receiving free school meals will automatically be sent supermarket vouchers to help them buy food over the holiday to replace the meals their children would have had in school.

The vouchers – worth £15 a week for each child – can be redeemed in major supermarkets across Devon. Arrangements are in place for families who cannot get to a supermarket.

More than 310 schools across the county are helping to distribute the vouchers – worth £252,000 – to the families of their pupils.

It’s part of a £2 million programme organised by Devon County Council to combat holiday hunger over the Christmas, half-term and Easter breaks.

Devon County Council’s Head of Communities, Simon Kitchen, said:

“The coronavirus pandemic has put a real strain on many family budgets. And we’ve seen a big increase in the number of families claiming free school meals over this time last year. The figure in Devon now stands at 16,800.

“We organised similar vouchers at Christmas, Easter and the last half-term and it’s important that we continue to support children and families in need.

“These vouchers replace the free school meals that children receive during term time and it’s a lifeline for many families.

“That’s why I’m very pleased that so many Devon schools have agreed to help us out with the distribution to make sure nobody misses out.

“In addition to issuing the vouchers to families directly, we’re also working with our Early Help teams, children’s centres, food networks and district councils to help vulnerable families who may not be eligible for free school meals.

“Devon County Council received over £2 million from the Government last year to support this programme.

“I encourage anyone who is struggling to get in touch because support is available.”

Many families in Devon have seen their financial circumstances change due to the pandemic. If you didn’t previously qualify for free school meals but your income has reduced or stopped, please apply online through the Devon County Council website to check if you are eligible for this support as soon as possible.

The quickest and easiest way for your eligibility to be assessed is through the Devon County Council website and you will get an instant decision. Alternatively, contact Devon County Council’s education helpline on 0345 155 1019.

More information about the free school meals holiday voucher scheme is available on Devon County Council’s website.