Demand for free school meals rises 60% post lockdown
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The pandemic has left increasing numbers of parents in Suffolk looking to free school meals to help feed their children.
The number of applications in Suffolk for free school meals has gone up by 60% in the past year.
In the year to March 2021 there were 11,391 applications for free school meals made to Suffolk County Council - up from 7,135 the previous year.
Sadly less than half of those who applied were eligible.
The number of children claiming free school meals has risen by more than a fifth in a year, with 18,674 given dinners during the 2020/21 school year compared to 15,294 pupils the year previously.
Ormiston Denes Academy in Lowestoft had more pupils eligible for free school meals than anywhere else in Suffolk.
While Springfield Infant School and Nursery in Ipswich saw a 94% increase in the number of pupils eligible for free school meals - from 34 to 36. This was the highest percentage increase across Suffolk.
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Suffolk County Council said that much of this change has come from the impact of the pandemic.
A spokesman said: “The pandemic has caused a significant increase in the number of free school meal applications received by the free school meals team with a 60% increase from the same period the previous year.
"This increase in eligibility is also due to the current protection offered by the government since 2018 due to the roll out of Universal Credit.
"This means that any child eligible for a free school meal at any time since April 2018 will remain eligible until the end of the roll out, despite any change of family circumstances.
“Suffolk County Council’s free school meals team has also worked hard to ensure eligible families are aware they are entitled to income related free school meals and encourage the uptake of applications.
"Being eligible for free school meals due to low income also provides our schools with Pupil Premium Funding from the government.”
Ipswich foodbank FIND is sending out parcels to families who would have been receiving free school meals during term time, they've also seen an impact on the number of people they are helping.
"I've got more than I ever have had," said founder Maureen Reynel.
She said that the summer holidays out added pressure on families, especially with many having to buy new uniforms for the start if term.
"It's a case of food on the table or school uniform," she said. "And in some cases it's neither."
The charity has spent more than £2,000 helping to provide school uniform for families who were struggling.