Greater Manchester is stepping up support for children and young people who need access to good quality food over the school holidays.
Despite an extension to the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) Covid Local Support Grant until 30 September 2021 and the provision of Holiday Activities and Food Programme Funding, information received from the 10 Greater Manchester local authorities has identified a £5 million funding gap in food provision for children and young people over the summer holidays.
In response to this, Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA) is funding further Emergency Food Cards for children and young people over the summer holidays. The ‘No Child Should Go Hungry’ initiative was launched over the October half term in 2020 and has provided over 4,365 cards to young people in need across Greater Manchester.
Some 900 pre-paid cards will provided to each council area - including Tameside and Oldham - for use in a range of supermarkets. Each card will be charged with £5 credit to enable young people in need to access food over the summer holidays.
In addition to the Emergency Food Cards, a funding platform has been set up to support the ‘No Child Should Go Hungry’ initiative to alleviate holiday hunger. Local charity Forever Manchester is providing GMCA with a Charitable Fund Management and grant-making service.
Anyone who feels they can donate to help people who may be experiencing holiday hunger can do so at this website: No Child Should Go Hungry Fund
In Greater Manchester there has been a rise in the number of children and young people who are eligible for free school meals. Data from the January 2021 school census indicates that over 120,000 pupils across Greater Manchester schools were eligible for free school meals. This is approximately 26 per cent of all pupils.
There are also a significant number of children and families who are not entitled to free school meals but are suffering from financial hardship. The Covid-19 pandemic has created a series of contributing factors where people are in a more vulnerable position but may not be eligible for additional support. This includes increased unemployment and deprivation and the insecurity that the end of furlough and the lifting of the eviction ban brings.
The Mayor of Greater Manchester and GMCA say they will work closely with partners in each local authority area, such as voluntary and charity organisations, Greater Manchester Health and Social Care Partnership and local businesses, to make sure that there is a collaborative approach to tackling holiday hunger.
Residents are also being encouraged to access support that is already available. One scheme that people may not be aware of are Healthy Start Vouchers and Citizens Advice Greater Manchester has launched a campaign to increase the take up of the vouchers in Greater Manchester.
If you are pregnant or have children under the age of four you could get free vouchers or payments every four weeks to spend on things like cow’s milk, fresh, frozen or tinned fruit and vegetables and infant formula milk.
You can find out more information about eligibility and how to apply for Healthy Start Vouchers from Citizens Advice Greater Manchester here: Healthy Start Vouchers
Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham said: “Whilst I welcome the extension of the Covid Local Support Grant by the government, what I am hearing from councils in Greater Manchester is that more needs to be done to help young people at risk of going hungry over the summer holidays.
“We are stepping up additional support by providing 9,000 Emergency Food Vouchers across the city region and setting up a platform for residents to donate to help tackle holiday hunger in Greater Manchester. I would like to thank all the organisations that have worked with us to support our No Child Should Go Hungry campaign. We worked closely with the Co-op when we launched the Emergency Food Vouchers last October and have been working with partners such as Huggg and Forever Manchester to be able to set with up additional support for this summer and the future.
“By building on what we have learnt from reducing homelessness and rough sleeping in Greater Manchester we want to build a strong, cross-society No Child Should Goes Hungry campaign to tackle food poverty and holiday hunger as a long-term issue.”
Alongside the ‘No Child Should Go Hungry’ initiative, Greater Manchester was the first city-region to support a campaign which calls for the ‘Right to Food’ to become a legal requirement.
The ‘Right to Food’ campaign, launched by Fans Supporting Foodbanks, calls for a change in the law to make access to food a legal right for all in the UK making Government legally responsible to help people suffering from food poverty.
Greater Manchester will also look to launch a Food Insecurity Action Network. This aims to be a grassroots, community led partnership that will initially drive action to support the ‘No Child Should Go Hungry’ initiative.