Calls for Wakefield schools to open kitchens in summer holidays to stop kids going hungry

Voluntary groups across the Wakefield district are trying to tackle holiday hunger.
Voluntary groups across the Wakefield district are trying to tackle holiday hunger.

Wakefield Council has been urged to open school kitchens during the summer holidays to stop children from poorer families going hungry.

But the local authority says that the idea is impossible without more cash from the government.

The proposal was made by Keith Garforth, a public member of Wakefield's children and young people scrutiny committee, who said it should be "simple" for the council to do.

Fears that some pupils entitled to free school meals during term time may go hungry during the six-week break in July and August have been voiced for several years.

Charities and voluntary groups are among those who've tried to address the problem, while several Wakefield councillors run holiday clubs in their local wards.

But speaking at a committee meeting on Wednesday, Mr Garforth said: "We know the physical impact on children when they're going without free school meals, and we're relying on these children to have access to foodbanks over the six week holiday.

"But if the council had a bit of forward-thinking and vision, you could do something about it.

"You could say to schools in certain areas where deprivation is high, "Open the kitchens and get these kids eating," because at the moment, they're not.

"That's simple isn't it? It's not rocket science."

But the council's service director for education, Andy Lancashire, responded: "But it also needs money, doesn't it?

"I'd love to be able to tell schools to open their kitchens for the summer, but it's going to need national government investment.

"You're absolutely right to raise it as an issue, that the number of children who get a free hot meal during term time and then suddenly during the summer holidays they're without it.

"We've got vision, but we need resources to make that work."

The committee chair, Councillor David Jones, said he'd seen family hardship first hand at a pop up surgery he runs at a foodbank in Pontefract on Tuesdays.

He said: "I've seen some pretty horrible things over the summer holidays, especially for those who've been moved onto Universal Credit.

"The hit they've taken is frightening.

"But Andy's right - it's a much bigger issue. This council is doing what it can but it's very limited by the structure we have to operate on.

Local Democracy Reporting Service