Flintshire council could up spend on free school meals to ensure children don’t go hungry
A local authority could be set to increase how much it spends on free school meals to ensure children don’t go hungry.
Flintshire Council currently pays £2.35 per meal for pupils living in households in receipt of income-related benefits.
However, a senior officer said the amount was insufficient to ensure youngsters are fed adequately, particularly at secondary school level, after feedback was received from a group for those in care.
Officials are now considering whether to boost it to either £2.75 or £3 after highlighting it could be the only solid meal some children in poverty receive each day.
Speaking at a virtual meeting held yesterday (Thursday 5 November), chief education officer Claire Homard said: “One of the priorities in our council plan is to support people who are suffering from poverty and particularly to focus on child poverty.
“One of the key areas we wanted to look at was the value of a free school meal.
“There’s been a lot of research that’s highlighted that the current levels of funding, particularly for a secondary aged pupil, is insufficient to provide a healthy and substantial meal for them.
“That’s come very clearly through our young people and through our looked after children forum as well.”
The suggestion to up the amount spent comes despite the council facing an increased pressure on its budget from the cost of free school meals.
It comes after it revealed there had been a rise in demand caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
A report presented to member’s of the authority’s education, youth and culture scrutiny committee shows costs have gone up by just over £250,000 since lockdown measures were introduced in March.
It also states that increasing the spend on each meal could add up to £174,000 to the bill.
Ms Homard said funding would have to be taken into consideration before any decisions are made.
She said: “The choice is could we be looking to increase the value of that meal?
“That’s where the range of cost comes in where we’ve modelled looking at potentially increasing it to £2.75 or even up to £3.
“I know that’s something members will be wanting to consider. Obviously, the challenge will be the affordability.
“We’ve seen an increased demand already and we need to make sure if that’s the one major meal our young people are receiving that they are actually sufficient to sustain them and help them maintain their concentration in school.”
The idea was supported by Ewloe councillor Dave Mackie who said it was important to address pupils’ concerns.
He said: “As far as the school meals increase goes, I think that’s absolutely vital.
“I’ve been in the young people’s forum and certainly young people do have concerns there.”
Liam Randall – Local Democracy Reporter (more here). Spotted something? Got a story? Send a Facebook Message | A direct message on Twitter | Email: News@Deeside.com