Thousands of Coventry schoolchildren could go hungry during the summer holidays with no support for hard-up families to feed their youngsters.
A total of 8,638 youngsters in Coventry are eligible for free school meals during term time according to the latest government statistics.
That amounts to almost one in 20 of the city’s total school population of 210,662.
But there is no provision for meals during the summer break, meaning thousands of families in the city are struggling to feed their children.
The picture is even worse in Warwickshire with a figure of 6,848 eligible for free school meals. That’s almost eight per cent of the total school population of 87,046.
The Trussell Trust, which runs Coventry Foodbank – one of the busiest in the UK, said it saw a 17 per cent rise in demand for food during the last summer holidays in the West Midlands.
The Trussell Trust, the UK’s biggest food bank charity, has warned that thousands of children will go hungry over the next few weeks.
Figures show that the number of children relying on food banks in the West Midlands rose by more than a sixth in the summer school holiday months last year.
A total of 6,600 children used food banks in the West Midlands in July and August last year.
That was up 17 per cent compared to the previous two months – the second biggest “summertime rise” out of all the regions in the country.
The Trussell Trust, which operates 420 food banks in the UK, said they expect figures to rise again this summer and urged people to donate more.
The Trust said the increase in demand was caused by the summer holidays, which mean that children were left without their regular school meal.
Samantha Stapley, operations manager for England at The Trussell Trust, said: “We welcome the government’s decision to maintain free school lunches for children during term time – the next step must be to help families during the holidays.
“Foodbanks are doing more than ever before but voluntary organisations alone cannot stop primary school children facing hunger.”
The Trussell Trust handed out an additional 4,000 emergency food parcels to children last summer.
More than a quarter went to children under four years old. Almost half were given to five to 11-year-olds and 21 per cent went to 12 to 16-year-olds.
The Trussell Trust counts the number of food parcels handed out, meaning that their counts aren’t necessarily all unique users.
You can find out more about Coventry Foodbank here .
Angela Rayner MP, Labour’s Shadow Secretary of State for Education, said: “It is a national disgrace that millions of children across the country are at risk of going hungry this summer.
“The Conservatives are failing in their duty of care to children in poverty, whose numbers are increasing to Dickensian levels under Tory austerity.
“With the IFS forecasting that child poverty will rise to five million by 2022, Labour is demanding that the government brings forward a new strategy to tackle child poverty.”
The Conservative Party in Coventry has been contacted for comment.
Who gets free meals?
Your child might be able to get free school meals if you get any of the following:
- 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 four weeks after you stop qualifying for Working Tax Credit
Find out more here .