A Scottish council is planning to pilot a new programme that will provide children in low income households with free meals every day of the year.
North Lanarkshire Council’s Food 365 programme would cover the 175 days of the year when pupils are not at school during weekends and school holidays.
If the authority’s education committee approves the proposals, a pilot will be carried out during the 2018 spring break before it is rolled out over the whole of North Lanarkshire in time for the summer holidays.
‘These proposals to tackle weekend and holiday hunger are the most ambitious in the country,’ said Cllr Frank McNally, convener of education.
Cllr McNally warned that groups like the Trussell Trust, the charity responsible for most of the UK’s food banks, were ‘struggling to cope with demand from parents’.
He also said research suggested pressure on food banks doubles during holidays.
‘North Lanarkshire has one of the highest concentrations of deprivation in the country and this is only going to be exacerbated by further welfare reforms,’ he said.
North Lanarkshire is one of the nine ‘challenge authorities’ in Scotland with the highest levels of deprivation. Nearly 21% of children live in low income households.
National research shows that almost a third of parents with incomes under £25,000 skip meals during the school holidays so that their children can eat.
Nearly two thirds are not always able to afford food outside of term time - a figure that rises to half and three-quarters respectively for parents with incomes under £15,000.
A survey by the National Union of Teachers (NUT) in England found 80% of teachers noted a rise in ‘holiday hunger’, where children return from holidays suffering from poor nutrition.