With the cost of living starting to take its toll, many parents across our communities are struggling to cover the cost of providing breakfast and lunch for their children. Therefore, St John’s Foundation has initiated a scheme to help provide this vital support.
St John’s is currently working with seven primary schools across Bath and North East Somerset, providing support to help ensure that all children receive the right start in life. Within these schools the level of children who are entitled to free school meals (‘FSM’) is at its highest. However, we are also aware there are children who are not eligible. Given there are many households in receipt of low incomes in the catchment areas served by ‘our’ schools that have been hit hard by the cost-of-living crisis and that the threshold for FSM entitlement is so low we have therefore pledged to cover the cost of children not entitled to FSM to also have a hot lunch each day. This means that over 700 children will have the opportunity to access the same free meals as their peers until July 2024.
Plans are also underway to work with partners to ensure meals are available for children attending these schools over weekends and school holidays, as a means to help parents cope with the rising cost of bills and to support the development of their children
A Head Teacher from one of our schools involved with the initiative told us that the amount she was spending on her breakfast club provision had doubled due to the cost-of-living. Clare Greene from St Michael’s Junior Church School added
“Some of our parents were not sure if it was real and sent their children in with packed lunches just in case! There were some VERY happy children today and lots of the kids had seconds! I sat and ate with them as usual but there was just so much joy and lots of full stomachs – thank you St John’s”
Many families within these seven schools are struggling financially yet not eligible for free school meals.
Nationally the figure for those known to be living in poverty but who are not registered for free school meals sits at 1.6million. The eligibility criteria for free school meals means that children above Year 3 (8 years old) must live in a household receiving income-related benefits, with an annual income – after tax and not including welfare payments – of no higher than £7,400 a year, or £142.30 a week.
About 40% of people who claim universal credit already have jobs and may earn above this threshold.
One parent commented
“I just wanted to say a huge thank you to St John’s. I’m starting a new job tomorrow and I’ve gone to pay for my daughters school meals to find out that St John’s are providing it for all the children at Roundhill Primary School who are not eligible for free school meals. This gesture alone has taken a lot of weight off my shoulders, and I am ever so grateful for all the hard work and generosity of St John’s.”
BaNES Council revealed the extent of poverty in our community when they shared that 1 in 5 of children in BaNES are living in ‘absolute’ poverty – that’s around 6,000 people under the age of 15 years.
It’s important to remember that behind every statistic is a hungry child in our community that requires our help.
Every young person has the potential to do well at school however we know that a lack of nutritious food inhibits brain development. Since the launch of our Foundation Fund in 2020, we have been working with partners and national organisations to help eradicate the need for emergency food provision and address the inequalities in the educational attainment across Bath and North East Somerset – this funding support is further step towards making this a reality.