Over £1.7 million worth of supermarket voucher have been sent to low-income families in Devon to help them buy food over the upcoming school summer holidays.
It’s part of the government’s one-off ‘household support fund’, which was given to councils to distribute.
Over the last year, we’ve invested Devon’s £4.7 million share in providing over 140,000 supermarket vouchers for families who qualify for free school meals; so their children don’t go hungry over the school holidays.
That scheme is operating again over the summer, with vouchers worth £90 per child automatically sent to families to help them buy food to replace the meals their child would have received at school during term-time. They can be redeemed in major supermarkets across Devon and arrangements are in place for families who cannot get to a supermarket.
More families in Devon are eligible for free school meals for their children than ever before, with numbers continuing to soar with the cost of living crisis to the highest levels on record. Around a further 2,000 children have become eligible for free school meals over the last year, rising to a total of approximately 19,000 pupils.
Councillor Roger Croad, Devon County Council’s Cabinet member for Communities, said:
“School holidays can be difficult for some families, with added costs of food for example – especially now with rising food and energy prices, and reduced income due to childcare.
“With the end of term fast approaching, we’ve already sent these supermarket vouchers to families whose children currently receive free school meals, so please check your inbox and redeem them. If you were expecting to receive the vouchers, but didn’t, get in touch with our team as soon as possible by emailing email@example.com or calling 0345 155 1019.
“People’s circumstances change all the time, so if you didn’t previously qualify for free school meals but your income has recently reduced or stopped, please apply via our website. It’s the quickest and easiest way for your eligibility to be assessed and you will get an instant decision.
“We are continuing to work with our local government, voluntary and community sector partners to make sure we identify those who are struggling so we can make sure they get the help they need.”
Other support is also available, including our Holiday Activity and Food (HAF) scheme, which eligible families can take part in for free over the summer break. It aims to provide a wide range of fun and enriching activities and nutritious food in a safe and sociable environment for children and young people to develop new skills or knowledge and try out new experiences, make friends and have fun.
Among the activities being staged in communities across the county are a variety of sports, arts and crafts, drama, cooking, water sports, forest school and circus skills.
At least one meal per day will be included and the children will improve their knowledge and awareness of healthy eating. The scheme also aims to help families develop their understanding of nutrition and food budgeting.
Places on the holiday schemes are available for free to children aged from five to 16 who receive benefit-related free school meals, and schools in the county have distributed letters to those who qualify. But some of the activities may also be open to other children whose families wish to pay for them to take part, if there are enough places.