Middlesbrough Council hopes to be a “force for social good” by helping to feed children who qualify for free school meals next week.
October half-term comes at a challenging time for many families with the Covid crisis leaving more people out of work or working fewer hours.
The Council has stepped in and made emergency arrangements in under 24 hours to make cash payments to families who qualify.
Around 7,500 children are eligible for free school meals in the town.
Their parents or guardians will be entitled to a £15 payment per child towards the cost of food over half-term.
Mayor Andy Preston has pledged to make Middlesbrough a hunger free town and today vows the Council will do all it can to support families through tough times, this half-term and beyond.
“I don’t see this as a political issue, or one of right vs left,” he said.
“No parents in Middlesbrough should have to worry about being able to feed their kids. That’s a simple fact. The October break is coming and we know these are extremely difficult times.
“Some people will be critical of the idea of us making cash payments, but when Middlesbrough families are in need, doing nothing isn’t an option.
“It is grossly offensive to suggest to many of the hard-working parents whose children qualify for free school meals that our emergency system will be exploited.
“Quite often as a Council there are things we’d love to do, but we come up against obstacles of funding or practicalities. In these exceptional circumstances we have found a way to do the right thing.
“When we can use our resources to be a force for social good, I will always push for us to do so.
“No child in this town should go without food, and we don’t want families to be left further behind by this Covid crisis.
“I’m determined that Middlesbrough will become a hunger-free town. Not just over half-term but for years to come.”
Starting on Friday evening, parents whose children are eligible will receive a text message headed ‘MBC Award’ which will contain a code.
This code will enable the payment to be redeemed from any PayPoint facility. Locations of shops with PayPoint can be found on the PayPoint website.
Anyone who believes they are eligible and doesn’t receive a code by October 30 2020 will be able to complete an application form on the Council’s website requesting a payment. Payments will be made to parents in order of school. The Council will provide updates via social media.
The half-term food payments will cost around £120,000 and be funded by government-allocated Covid finances.
In the weeks ahead the Council will explore options for a volunteer-led scheme that would food available for collection over forthcoming holiday periods.