With the debate, around extending the Free School Meals scheme into the school holidays, becoming increasingly prevalent. What do our youth bloggers feel about the subject?
“In my personal opinion we should”
What exactly are Free School Meals?
Well Free School Meals (FSM) are benefits that may be given to you if you are of school age which is 5 to 18 years old) and:
- You are in a family that receives other support/benefits (eg: income support).
- younger than the required age for starting school in full-time education
So how have FSM been affected by COVID-19?
Through alternative schemes during term-time such as food parcels or vouchers from schools to support students. In Leicestershire, COVID-19 has also affected the way students receive FSM. The local council has said that it is responding to requests from schools for this and are working out ways for students in different year groups to not mix during lunchtimes. Solutions include:
- Having more than one area to eat lunch such as a canteen or outside.
- Taking food to students in the areas they are in for the day
- In the case for people who are self-isolating food parcels can be given
So should we provide FSM over the holidays?
In my personal opinion we should because like Marcus Rashford said
“no child in 2020 should be sat in a classroom worried about how they are going to access food during the holidays”.
Tolu, 14, Leicestershire
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“a child has not done anything to mean that they don’t deserve the basic necessity of having enough to eat. Period!”
Free school meals (FSM) should definitely be provided to children over the holidays.
There are many issues in this country, and it is very hard to choose which should be prioritised, but to sustain the next generation as healthy, happy and able is arguably one of the most important.
Arguments can be made for and against many policies, but no sane person would ever insinuate that a child doesn’t deserve to eat. As well as this, it is a very effective way of alleviating this problem, as simply giving money allows for it to be dissipated in many ways before it reaches the intended people and their issues, whether they be simply bureaucratic inadequacies or misuse of money through drugs, cigarettes, etc.
As well as this, it is even more important that this scheme continues with the potentials of further lockdowns, job losses in many sectors and going into the winter months. Money is becoming increasingly scarce for large amounts of people and our children should not suffer. As well as this, in the winter months, there are often many other things to take care of, with increased spending on utilities, for the necessity of warm clothing, many families are fighting day to day.
I am from a wealthy area, yet I still know many people who are very tight for money, have never been on holiday, have to choose between homework and looking after their siblings and have to rely far more than they should ever have to, on FSM. This is through no fault of their own, you can have whatever opinion you like on people who live below the poverty line and how they ended up there, but a child has not done anything to mean that they don’t deserve the basic necessity of having enough to eat. Period!
Please take the time to sign this petition, as have I, and educate more people on this hugely important issue: https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/554276
Thank you, this could change someone’s life.
Ella, 15, Driffield
Read more from Ella
“No family should be experiencing child food poverty”
Should we have free school meals?
Should free school meals be extended during half-term?
Yes. No family should be experiencing child food poverty.
What happened earlier this year?
The government extended free school meals during the Easter holidays. Marcus Rashford, 23 years old and a footballer, started a high-profile campaign which succeeded in the government extending them over the summer break. He didn’t have to fight for free school meals to be provided over the holidays to vulnerable children. He didn’t have to fight, but he did, and so he deserved to be given the City of Manchester award to thank him for his campaign. He’s also been awarded an MBE.
What is happening now?
The government has refused to extend free school meals again over the October half-term. The government’s argument is that it has already given money to councils in order that they can support families. But how do we know that councils are going to be able to spend their budgets on free school meals?
At least the issue is getting headline attention.
When schools closed due to Covid-19, this meant children from low income families who had received free school meals before the pandemic, were then given food parcels or vouchers for supermarkets. If you were a family on a low income, having been reliant on those free school meals, it would have meant that, when schools closed, you could easily struggle; it makes a lot of sense to have continued free school meals, because otherwise, how would families budget for the extra food they needed? It’s hard to find that money when you are on a low income.
Covid-19 has meant a lot of families having to claim Universal Credit, which would mean more children eligible for free school meals. So, as the number of people on Universal Credit has increased then the cost to the taxpayer of free school meals, extended for further school holidays, has increased. The cost of this, is why the government won’t extend them.
It’s a cost worth paying
Yes – this is a cost to the taxpayer, but, in my opinion, it’s a cost worth paying. We shouldn’t have children going hungry in the world today and free school meals are one way of helping with this.
Free school meals help some of the poorest families in the country.
If you are hungry, and some children may feel hungry all the time, how can you learn and concentrate; even in the school holiday, children can still be learning. Also, being hungry, on a daily basis, with no prospect of regular meals, is bad for your mental and physical health. This all puts stress on the whole family and future health care.
So, I support extending free school meals over half-term. If nothing else, we are still in a pandemic, with the poverty this brings to many people, and this isn’t going away soon.
Let’s try and reduce inequality whatever it costs. Extend free school meals.
Beth, 17, Leicester
Read more from Beth