A CHARITY has described the patchwork provision of food support for children as a ‘postcode lottery’ - after revealing Barnsley Council will not be providing meal vouchers during the Christmas break.
The Food Foundation said it was ‘vitally important’ all children eligible for free school meals had support during the two-week holiday, having assessed 124 local authorities’ plans across the UK.
Data - revealed yesterday - shows 93 of those councils continue to offer vouchers to families whose children are in receipt of free school meals, 11 are offering cash instead, but many are not running either.
Instead, Barnsley Council’s offering its ‘Healthy Holidays’ clubs - which run for a minimum of four hours a day - for children who receive free school meals which does provide a meal.
However, the scheme - funded by the Department for Education - only ran from Monday and ends today.
A Barnsley Council spokesperson said: “We are not offering a voucher scheme as the ‘Healthy Holidays’ activity programme runs over the Christmas holidays, which provides those children entitled to free school meals with a place at an activity club and a healthy meal each day.
“Providing vouchers would duplicate the support given to these children.
“We know a lot of families are struggling at the moment with the rising cost of living, and we’re really pleased that we’re able to bring the Healthy Holidays clubs back this Christmas to offer support when children and young people are out of school.
“Children not only get a delicious and nutritious meal at the clubs but also enriching, physical activities to support their wellbeing outside of school.”
Food poverty continues to be extremely high in Barnsley and the town is one of the worst-hit places in Yorkshire when it comes to its residents going hungry.
Zoe McIntyre, from The Food Foundation, added: “We are particularly concerned that children who are not eligible for free school meals will not be eligible for free holiday provision, either.
“Additional funding for councils comes from the £421m Household Support Fund, some of which is ring-fenced for families with children.
“However, not all councils are using this to supply food vouchers, and this creates a postcode lottery on who is receiving additional support and who isn’t.”