Petition launched calling on Hertfordshire County Council to ensure no child hungry in holidays

The petition was started by Tom Plater from Hertfordshire Against Holiday Hunger

Thursday, 5th November 2020, 6:41 am

A petition has been launched calling on the county council to ensure no child in Hertfordshire goes hungry over the school holidays.

Started by Tom Plater, from Hertfordshire Against Holiday Hunger, the petition highlights the 19,820 children who are eligible for free school meals in the county.

And it calls on the county council to take action to provide meals to those children during the holidays.

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It suggests almost one in every three families nationwide have lost income as a result of Covid-19.

And it estimates that demand for food banks this winter is set to be 61 per cent higher than last.

“No child, whatever their situation should be forced to go hungry over any school holiday, let alone during a global pandemic,” states the petition.

“After the UK Government voted to not extend free school meal provision over the holidays, we have seen so many amazing Hertfordshire organisations and local businesses step up to help at this difficult time, but we need our local politicians to step up too.

“Other Councils have shown that this is possible, including our neighbours Essex County Council who are providing free school meals.

“We need Hertfordshire County Council to follow their lead and take action by providing free school meals to vulnerable children across our county.”

The petition was started on October 25 by Mr Plater and Tina Bhartwas – who are also members of the Labour Party in North Herts. And it will run until December 20.

Mr Plater says he launched the petition in recognition of the number of families who have experienced a ‘massive’ loss of income as a result of the pandemic – and who are now facing the additional financial pressures of winter.

And he says he believes the county council should be stepping in to do more.

Ultimately he stresses that the financial strain of an extended free school meal scheme should be taken by the government at a national level.

But in the meantime, he says, “an unprecedented crisis calls for unprecedented measures.”

Ms Bhartwas says that free school meals were a lifeline to her own family when she was a child.

And she says she was upset that the scheme was not extended for vulnerable families at such a difficult time.

She points to the local businesses – some of which she says are struggling themselves – that have been doing what they can to support the local community.

And she says she hopes the petition will put pressure on local representatives.

Meanwhile, the provision of free school meals in Hertfordshire during the school holidays is already due to be debated by a meeting of the full council later this month (November 17).

The extraordinary meeting of the county council was triggered following a formal request from a group of Liberal Democrat councillors.

Commenting on the ongoing petition, a spokesperson for Hertfordshire County Council said: “We’ll be discussing this issue in detail at a special meeting of the full county council on 17 November.”