7,000 Bay children to get food aid

Picture of food bags for needy children

Bags of food and cereal ready for distribution by the Feed a Child Torbay team - Credit: Catherine Fritz/Feed a Child Torbay

Families of more than 7,000 children in Torbay will receive £30 in food vouchers for each child to cover the Easter school break. 

The support from Torbay Council costing around £210,000 will be funded by Government Covid grants. 

The council’s cabinet approved the extra support for families facing food poverty at a special meeting. 

Councillors heard that Devon County Council and Plymouth City Council were taking a similar approach. 

The voucher scheme will be on top of support for some children from the Government’s Holiday Activities and Food Programme.  

Torbay has been allocated just over £560,000 for the year in the HAF scheme, after it was included for the first time due to the pandemic. 

That money cannot be used on vouchers and must go to pay for activities and a meal for children who receive benefits-related free school meals. 

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The funding is for activity places for four hours a day plus a meal, for four days a week, over four weeks in the summer and a week at Easter and Christmas. 

Councillors heard that local authorities were expected to decide which children would receive the places, and previous schemes reported reaching around a quarter of eligible children. 

The council’s assistant director of education Rachael Williams said that felt ‘uncomfortable given the times that we are in’.  

It would only run for two days for each week of the two-week Easter holiday, and would only reach a small proportion of the 7,000 children who received support under the winter food scheme at the end of 2020. 

Council leader Steve Darling said Torbay had the highest level of poverty in the South West. 

He described the process required by the Government to choose between the ‘undeserving and deserving poor’ as ‘Dickensian’. 

Cabinet member for children Cordelia Law said families and schools would welcome the extra support from the voucher scheme. 

Councillor Chris Lewis welcomed both schemes, which he said provided a total of £770,000 of Government support for the most vulnerable families. 

The cabinet also approved plans for the council to work with partners to tackle food poverty at half-term and in the summer holidays. 

Councillors voted in favour of setting up a strategic food partnership to: 

  • tackle food poverty, diet-related ill-health and access to affordable healthy food – prioritising the immediate issue of school holidays; 

  • support the creation of a vibrant, prosperous and diverse sustainable food economy; 

  • tackle the climate and nature emergency through an end to food waste locally; 

  • build public awareness, active food citizenship and a local good food movement.