Oxford City Council will ensure no child goes hungry during half term.
Families in hardship, particularly those with children receiving Free School Meals, will be able to receive food vouchers of up to £15 per child for the week.
The most deprived children receive free meals while at school, but last week the Government decided not to extend this provision to cover half term.
The City Council has also provided more than £60,000 of funding to community groups and charities to provide food to struggling families during the coronavirus pandemic.
Food banks and larders are operating across the city – including in Barton, Blackbird Leys, Cowley and Rose Hill – to help provide food to families during half term and beyond.
No child to go hungry
The City Council will provide the food vouchers to families in Oxford that cannot access food banks or larders, or are in particular and urgent need.
If you are struggling to feed your children during half term, please contact the City Council by calling 01865 249811.
The vouchers will be available during half term (Monday 26 October to Friday 30 October).
There are almost 3,000 children in Oxford who qualify for Free School Meals.
For 3,000 children, the City Council estimates the costs of providing this provision to be somewhere in the region of £45,000.
Food banks and larders
The following organisations are providing free meals for children in Oxford during half term:
- Oxford Mutual Aid and partners are providing free meals tomorrow (27 October) between 1pm and 3pm at Templar’s Square Shopping Centre and between 4pm and 6pm at The Leys Pools and Leisure Centre
- Waste2Taste Café at Ark-T Centre is providing healthy meals to re-heat at home tomorrow (27 October) and on Wednesday (28 October)
- Florence Park Community Centre is delivering free lunch meals for children and families on Friday (30 October)
Meanwhile, the following community larders will also be open this week:
- Blackbird Leys Community Larder is open between 3pm and 5pm on Wednesdays at Blackbird Leys Community Centre
- Rose Hill Community Larder is open between 2pm and 4pm on Tuesdays at Rose Hill Community Centre
- Barton Community Larder is open between 2pm and 6pm on Tuesdays in the sports hall at Barton Neighbourhood Centre
Food support since lockdown
During lockdown, the City Council and Oxford Hub provided emergency food parcels to the most vulnerable families and those shielding across the city. More than 10,000 food parcels were provided to families in Oxford.
In September, following the end of lockdown, the City Council ended this service and instead provided £60,000 of seed funding to help community groups and charities in Oxford provide free or heavily discounted food for families in Oxford. So far, 9,548 people have been supported by the organisations.
The City Council also allocated £40,000 of funding to provide food vouchers of up to £100 for individuals – or up to £250 for families – to those who had received food parcels during the lockdown and were still most in need; and £25,000 to feed homeless people.
The City Council is currently contacting all recipients of the food vouchers to check on their welfare and support them to access food banks or larders.
The grants and vouchers were funded through a £132,000 grant from Defra (Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs) – via Oxfordshire County Council – to provide food for those most in need, particularly those shielding during lockdown, and was not envisaged to cover Free School Meals during the holidays.
“We are working with partners to try to ensure that no child in the city goes hungry during half term.
“Almost 3,000 children in Oxford qualify for Free School Meals – children who are already experiencing a huge amount of stress and widening inequality as a result of the pandemic – and we see it as our moral duty to help them.
“But our finances are already under significant pressure and covering the Government’s Free School Meals programme during half term and the Christmas holidays could cost up to £135,000.
“It is fantastic that so many community groups, charities and businesses in Oxford have stepped up to help tackle food poverty for children in the city. However, at a time when so many children and families are facing poverty and inequality we need government to show leadership and ensure that no child in our country goes hungry at this difficult time.”
Councillor Marie Tidball, Cabinet Member for Supporting Local Communities