CHILDREN in Leicester on benefits-related free school meals won’t miss out over the October half-term break, thanks to a holiday food programme that’s supported by Company Shop and Leicester-based Samworth Brothers.
The city council has teamed up with the surplus retailer and the food manufacturer to provide eligible families with fruit, vegetables, milk, bread and store cupboard essentials to ensure children have some breakfast, lunch and dinner options over half-term.
Families who are eligible for the scheme will have been directly contacted by their child’s school – and those wishing to take up the offer now have until Tuesday (26 September) to register.
Once they’ve registered and selected a timed ‘shopping’ slot, families will be able to collect their food from one of six pop-up community pantries that will be set up at sites across the city – including local schools, a leisure centre and the King Power stadium.
Each site will be open at specified times on one day between Wednesday 11 October and Monday 16 October.
Families will be able to select a good food hamper and additional items from the community pantry, choosing food that their child likes to eat up to a value of around £25.
Deputy city mayor Cllr Sarah Russell, who leads the city council’s anti-poverty agenda, said: “The cost of living today means more and more people are being pushed to crisis point.
“We don’t want to see families having to rely on initiatives like these pop-up pantries, and it’s not acceptable that families find themselves in this position, but while there’s a need for this kind of support, we’ll provide it.
“Around 15,000 children and young people in Leicester are eligible for free school meals and it’s vital that they don’t miss out on a meal when the schools are closed, so I hope that our pop-up pantries will make life a little easier for many local families.
“I’d like to thank Samworth Brothers and Company Shop for helping us support thousands of young people and their families once again this half-term, and I’d also like to thank the volunteers who give up their time to help staff our six community pantries.
“Eligible families who have been contacted by their child’s school should now make sure they register for the half-term scheme by Tuesday 26 September.”
Leicester-based Samworth Brothers produce premium quality chilled and ambient foods – from sandwiches, meals and savoury pastries to salads, cooked meats and snacks – so are perfectly placed to provide the city council with the thousands of items required to provide a week’s worth of meals for thousands of children.
Karen Holdsworth, Samworth Brothers’ group community coordinator, said: “We’re very happy to be teaming up with the city council again to make these much-needed pantries possible.
“Samworth Brothers is, and has always been, very passionate about its role within our local communities and it’s wonderful that we can continue to support the council with this initiative.
“Organising the pantries is a big job, but by working with Company Shop, we’re able to make sure we have a fantastic range to offer the families attending. And of course, the pantries themselves wouldn’t be possible without a great team of volunteers, not only from within Samworth Brothers but also from the city council, Company Shop, Biffa and A La Carte recruitment.”
The city council will fund the £150,000 scheme to help support the city’s most financially vulnerable families.
The October half-term food scheme is offered to families who have children who:
- receive benefits-related free school meals
- are at full-time school (aged 4 to 16)
- live in Leicester (or attend a city school, if they live outside of Leicester)
More information and a link to the registration form is available at families.leicester.gov.uk/holiday-food-offer
Anyone who thinks their child might be eligible for free school meals can find out more at leicester.gov.uk/freeschoolmeals
Picture caption: Volunteers from the city council and Samworth Brothers prepare food for the pop-up pantry at Soar Valley College during the May 2023 half-term break.