Free school meals summer 2021: will families get government help during holidays, eligibility and how to apply

England and Manchester United striker Marcus Rashford is fighting to end child food poverty

Nearly a third of parents of school-aged children are worried about feeding their kids during the summer holidays, a recent survey suggests.

This figure is higher among parents with children on free school meals (FSMs), with 49% worried about feeding their kids over the 2021 summer holidays.

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So what is being done to help families feed their children during the summer break from school, with some lockdown restrictions still in effect amid the Covid pandemic…

England and Manchester United striker Marcus Rashford is fighting to end child food poverty. (Pic: Getty)

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Will kids get free school meals during summer holidays?

In response to the survey, which involved more than 2,000 parents of school-aged children, the Food Foundations charity has launched a film to help worried parents.

The short, which features England striker Marcus Rashford, shines a light on the government's £220 million Holiday Activities and Food Programme for children across England.

The survey found that 24% of parents had heard of the programme and 43% of parents with children on FSMs are aware of the scheme to help keep kids fed and active this summer.

The holiday programme is targeted to support children who have been most affected by the pandemic, offering a safe and supportive environment where they can learn, be active, eat well, and make friends.

Who is eligible for free school meals during the summer?

Children on FSMs are entitled to free places on the programme which runs in England.

Rashford said: “I know only too well that the holidays can be a really difficult time for families who are struggling.

“It’s such a weight off their shoulders to know that there is a safe space for their children to go, where their minds can be stimulated, and where they are guaranteed at least one meal a day.”

Henry Dimbleby, the independent lead of the National Food Strategy, said: “The Holiday Activities and Food programme is a great step forward in expanding what’s being offered to children through the holidays.

“It will mean that children and young people on free school meals not only don’t go hungry when term ends but also eat healthily and have fun.

“I hope that schools and local authorities help get the word out so that parents know that these programmes are available for their children, and that local authorities share the film and make it as easy as possible for parents to find out about your HAF scheme before the summer holidays start.”

How to apply for free school meals during summer 2021

Parents can sign their children up for their local summer programme and are encouraged to find out what’s on in their area via their local council website.

Children and families minister Vicky Ford said: “Thousands of young people will continue to benefit from the expanded Holiday Activities and Food programme, which the government is expanding across the whole country with investment of up to £220 million.

“This summer it will continue to provide nutritious food, as well as activities like arts and crafts, sport, and music, to the children who would benefit the most – especially those eligible for free school meals.

“I’m grateful for the support of Henry Dimbleby, Marcus Rashford and the Food Foundation as champions for the programme and I hope many others follow their lead.

“I urge parents and families to have a look at what’s on in their area for the summer holidays.”

Will families in Scotland get help with school meals during summer?

The Scottish government is urging families who normally receive help with school meals for their kids to contact their local councils to see if they are eligible for support over the summer.

To qualify you need to get one of the benefits in the eligibility section.

From August 2021 this includes universal credit, income support, income-based job seeker's allowance, income-based employment and support allowance.