Free school meals are a lifeline for many families, so when the end of term rolls around, the cost of feeding children skyrockets.
But there is help available through the Easter holidays, both in London and through some local councils across the UK.
The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, is extending free school meals in London for those eligible to cover holidays and weekends, and the nationwide Household Support Fund (HSF) can also help.
So how do you access support to feed your kids?
Here’s what you need to know.
Are there free school meals at Easter?
In London, the free school meals scheme is being extended, with £3.5 million being pumped in by City Hall as part of a cost of living emergency funding package.
This will provide meals during weekends and school holidays for children in low income families.
It starts immediately, so the Easter holidays are covered, and runs until the end of March 2024 across all London boroughs.
In London and across the country, the Household Support Fund (HSF) can also help if you’re struggling to buy food.
How do I apply for free school meals?
You can find out if your child is eligible for free school meals in England and apply on the government website.
Generally, you may qualify if you receive any of the following:
- Income Support
- income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance
- income-related Employment and Support Allowance
- support under Part VI of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999
- the guaranteed element of Pension Credit
- Child Tax Credit (provided you’re not also entitled to Working Tax Credit and have an annual gross income of no more than £16,190)
- Working Tax Credit run-on – paid for 4 weeks after you stop qualifying for Working Tax Credit
- Universal Credit – if your household income is than £7,400 a year (after tax and not including any benefits you get)
In London, all primary-age children at state schools receive free school meals, and across the country it is children in Reception class, Year One and Year Two.
If you’re already receiving free school meals, the school may contact you direct about additional payments or vouchers for over Easter.
How can I access the Household Support Fund?
Each council across the country – including in London – administers the HSF differently, so you need to contact them direct and ask about Easter food payments. At some, help is in the form of either food vouchers or paid direct.
To find your local council, add your postcode here.
In Greenwich, for example, all children currently claiming free school meals in Greenwich Schools will qualify for an HSF payment of £30 in the Easter holidays.
The council said: ‘Entitlement is confirmed via the schools, and you will be contacted by text message or email from the Council letting you know how you will receive the payment.’
Surrey County Council has a similar scheme.
Meanwhile, the Mayor’s additional funding for London is aimed at the lowest income families during holidays and weekends and will be rolled out through more than 340 community partners and 80 hubs.
One hub, Kitchen Social, is the largest independent provider of food for children in London during the school holidays – you can find your nearest hub and access support here.
It also offers Take and Make boxes to encourage children to cook at home and you
Mr Khan said: ‘My siblings and I depended on (free school meals) to eat while at school and my parents relied on them to give our family a little extra breathing room financially.
First appear at Is your child eligible for free school meals over the Easter 2023 break?