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All you need to know about free meals during the summer holidays

Councils offer support to families to provide meals during school holidays.
Councils offer support to families to provide meals during school holidays.

The cost-of-living crisis is continuing to have a significant impact on families across the north and north-east.

And with the school holidays now upon us, many parents and carers will be feeling the extra pressure of paying for food and activities for their children over the next seven weeks.

All pupils in primary one through to five receive free lunches at school no matter their parent’s income, but eligibility during the holidays is different.

Thousands of school-aged children are entitled to free lunches out of term time with each council having its own way of offering support.

The Press and Journal is continuing to highlight the help that is available through the Big Food Appeal, and has pulled together all the information you need to know about children’s meals this summer.

What support is available?

Eligible school-aged children and teenagers will receive meal payments of around £12.50 per week.

Each council provides slightly different payments or vouchers at different times, but they all go straight to families so they can choose their own meals based on their needs.

Aberdeen City Council will send a £25 voucher per child every two weeks via e-mail or text. These can then be claimed online and spent at most supermarkets.

Moray and Highland Councils send a one-off payment which works out at between £2.30 and £2.50 per child per day.

Aberdeenshire Council provides one payment of £87.50, while Shetland Islands Council will send direct payments every fortnight totalling £80.

Food vouchers can be used at most supermarkets.

An automatic Bridging Payment of £130 is issued by the Scottish Government during the four school holidays each year for those who qualify for free school meals.

Education Secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville said the government is on a “national mission” to tackle child food poverty – and is providing £21.75 million of funding for much-needed holiday support.

Who is eligible?

Those who already receive free school meals due to family income during term time do not need to do anything, and will automatically receive the payments for the seven-week holiday period.

There are a number of current qualifying benefits and allowances to receive free school meals, including income support, child tax credit and universal credit.

Education committee convener Martin Grieg said it is vital meals are available to children during school holidays.

Aberdeen councillor Martin Greig, convener of the education operational delivery committee, said it is “vital” to ensure meals continue to be made available.

He said: “Many young people need that support in order to keep them going. It’s a service of value to many in all communities.

“The cost of living crisis affects most people so it is important to highlight the help available. School meals will hopefully provide some assistance and ensure young people are nourished and can maintain their wellbeing.”

Can you still apply?

Those who are accessing support for the first time or may have found their circumstances have recently changed can apply online for holiday payments.

Applications remain open for all councils, but parents are warned there may be a slight delay with processing due to schools now being closed.

Families in Shetland have until Friday, August 12 to fill out an application to qualify for summer payments.

Food banks across the north and north-east can provide emergency food packages.

Is emergency support available?

The Scottish Welfare Fund provides crisis grants which can be applied for online through each council website.

Aberdeen City Council has also advised families that they can contact 0800 0304713 for welfare and emotional support at any time.

Foodbanks, run by various groups, are also available in all council areas to provide emergency food parcels.

For more information, or to get involved with The Big Food Appeal, click here.

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