Essex Conservatives announce more than 35,500 eligible children and young people will get free school meals vouchers for the Easter school holidays.
Essex County Council and Active Essex are running the ‘Essex ActivAte’ holiday activity and food programme again over Easter, funded by both the Council and the Department for Education. The sessions will support young people with positive, engaging activities to get them active whilst having fun and provide a healthy meal as well as nutritional education.
The meal vouchers, worth £30 per child, are being sent to parents and young people by email or text by Friday 26th March. Printed vouchers will be provided to parents who cannot access them online. The vouchers can only be exchanged for food and can be used in most supermarkets and the McColls chain of local shops.
The Council used more than £1.5m of its Covid-19 Winter Grant from Central Government to ensure all eligible children had support for food over the Christmas and February half-term holidays. Now it is once again funding the vouchers for the two-week Easter break. The national Free School Meals programme only covers term time.
Wonde, a national provider of free school meal vouchers, will send the vouchers direct and ease the burden on schools that are already busy coping with the impacts of covid-19. Parents or young people who have received vouchers or who have questions can find out more at help.schoolvouchers.com/hc/en-gb.
Through the Easter holidays, ActivAte will deliver holiday activity clubs for secondary school-age children who need them, not just those eligible for free school meals. The clubs provide nutritious meals, outreach, nutrition education for all the family, a schedule of fun sessions and online activities through the Keep Essex Active Youtube channel as well as holiday activity packs.
Due to the current restrictions and government guidance, the Essex ActiveAte Easter holiday programme will provide a limited face-to-face offer for the most vulnerable young people.
Cllr Louise McKinlay, Essex Cabinet Member for Children & Families, said: “Last Summer, we launched our Holiday Camp Activity Scheme, engaging with youngsters in a fun and positive way and provided a nutritious meal. The initiative was very popular with working parents, helping them with childcare during the long school holidays. That was just the start and I am delighted that this year, we will see the number of sessions increase ten-fold to 250,000. Camps will be across the whole County, so wherever you live, there will be one nearby.”