CALLS are growing for a school-meals pilot to be expanded, after it was highlighted that as many as 1,000 children were going without a hot meal each day.
Children’s commissioner Deborah McMillan said the situation was becoming ‘urgent’, and called on the government to extend the scheme ‘as quickly and comprehensively as possible’ to all States primary schools.
Writing in the most recent JEP Weekend Essay, Hannah Skelton, operating manager at Caring Cooks, said families in the Island were living in poverty with nowhere to cook, adding that some people ‘might be surprised to know that as many as 1,000 children each day are unable to access a hot meal’.
This prompted a school governor to call for the scheme providing free and subsidised school meals to be rolled out across the Island to ensure that young people were properly fed. Phil Horsley, a governor and former chairman of the board at Haute Vallée School, said the figure was not surprising and that expanding the scheme would be an ‘incredible, powerful thing’ for the government to do.
Caring Cooks launched the pilot school lunch programme, called Flourish, in association with the government in 2019. It provides a daily main meal and dessert to children at Janvrin, Samarès and St Luke’s primary schools, and is being rolled out to two more after the February half term.
Mrs McMillan said: ‘To not be able to adequately feed your family is one of the most fundamental problems that any parent can face. It is therefore alarming to see that the number of children in the Island who are unable to access a daily hot meal is still on the rise. I understand that Covid has certainly exacerbated the situation, both in terms of its economic impact and also in the way in which it has delayed government initiatives to tackle the issue.
‘However, I feel that the situation is now becoming urgent. The pilot scheme run by the government, in collaboration with Caring Cooks, should be extended as quickly and comprehensively as possible to States primary schools. There is no excuse in a community as affluent as ours for any child to be malnourished.’
During a Scrutiny hearing earlier this week, Mrs McMillan also revealed that the situation for some families was so bad that some children were queuing up in their school uniforms at food banks ‘to take food home to mum, or whoever it happens to be at home’.
‘Anecdotally we are seeing more families at the food bank. One food bank alone sees on average 30 families a week,’ she said.
A government spokesperson recently told the JEP that the extension of the pilot had been hampered by the pandemic, but they would be expanding to St Martin’s and St Peter’s primary schools after half term, with a roll-out to six further schools planned in July.
A proposal from Deputy Rob Ward in December 2020 to set aside £573,717 to extend this programme to all fully-state-funded primary schools was rejected.