At this moment in time we have nearly 7,300 children on free school meals and we are looking to support them throughout this half term. We have identified a sum of government money that can be used in these circumstances. We will use this to support the work of Luton Foodbank and those volunteer agencies across the town that are working to ensure these children and their families have what they need.
We have been deeply impressed, but not at all surprised by the number of local businesses and organisations that have stepped in to provide meals for schoolchildren this half term. Once again Luton’s amazing community has shown itself to be quick to show concern and care for the vulnerable at this time of economic hardship for so many.
As a council we are joining with many others across the country asking for the government to provide the necessary funding to ensure that those families in poverty do not have to endure a difficult week over half term, Christmas and future school holidays.
Clearly, where there is need it is imperative that there is practical response and Luton Council has identified some funding to work with businesses and the voluntary and community sector to make sure that no children go hungry.
Only last week we launched our ‘Luton 2020-2040 A place to thrive’ campaign through which we as a council and our partners are working toward a shared vision across the town to reduce health inequalities and to protect our most disadvantaged residents and to enable everyone in Luton to thrive. This will be a very practical example of this commitment.
Leader of the council, Hazel Simmons, said: “At its heart, Luton’s strong community is deeply caring and always ready to step in to help. Not only have many of our voluntary groups helped provide meals for those in need this half-term, but food businesses, many of which have been adversely affected by the Covid-19 pandemic, have been eager to ensure vulnerable children and their families, don’t go hungry.”
Councillor Aslam Khan, portfolio holder for Children’s Services, Enhancing Skills and Education, said: “At this time of economic distress for so many it would be utterly wrong if we were to fail our vulnerable children. More than ever they need our support as we provide them with the skills and training that will enable them to thrive in the future. Sufficient, nutritious food for all is not negotiable. While we are appreciative of the amazing solidarity and support of local groups, we join with others in calling on the government to invest in our nation’s children at this time.”
Luton Foodbank chair Liz Stringer said: “In this period of extreme uncertainty we are working hard to ensure no one goes hungry in Luton, most of all our children. We welcome the involvement of Luton Borough Council and hope funding will enable us to continue our fight against food poverty in Luton. Over the next months we will ensure all monies are used to support the community and work in partnership with other like-minded charities to feed those in need. “