School pupils set to benefit from £2m emergency school food fund

Cumbrian children are set to benefit from £2m of additional funding for school food agreed by Cumbria County Council’s Cabinet today.

The money will be shared between the county’s schools to ensure that all children continue to be able to access healthy, nutritious food at a time when many families and schools are struggling to do this due to rising prices.

The fund will include:

  • a £1.5m food provision grant programme for all schools; grants could be used to cover the costs where a child’s lunch account is in deficit, develop breakfast provision and homework clubs, support costs for food tech and any other measures the schools deem necessary to ensure that their pupils are able to access hot food.
  • The £1.5m includes a dedicated £50,000 to enable schools to set up breakfast clubs or help schools currently running breakfast clubs to have access to good food and resource additional staff/volunteer capacity.
  • £0.5m to fund the holiday food programme in Easter 2023. This will ensure the two new unitary councils of Cumbria, Cumberland Council and Westmorland & Furness Council, can continue to provide free school meal vouchers to children during the easter holidays.

The funding package takes the council’s spend supporting people through the cost-of-living crisis to more than £5m in the last 12 months.

The decision was taken in response to a motion proposed by Cllr Karen Lockney at the meeting of Full Council in September, which asked for a Scrutiny Task and Finish Group to be convened to look at how the council could ensure that no child goes hungry as the ongoing cost-of-living crisis impacts on families. The task and finish group heard from expert witnesses, including local Headteachers, and made several recommendations, including providing direct support to schools.

Cumbria County Council’s Cabinet Member for Communities and Public Health, Cllr Deborah Earl, said:

“I’m delighted we’ve been able to provide this additional funding for schools. So many families are facing real hardship and schools are at the frontline of responding to this.

“This money can be used flexibly by schools depending on their circumstances, for example it could allow them to run breakfast clubs or to subsidise the cost of school meals to ensure portion sizes aren’t reduced because of the increasing cost of ingredients and energy. The key thing is that they can do what works for their pupils.

“However, that we are having to do this is genuinely quite shocking. We shouldn’t be in the position of having to offer schools emergency funding just to ensure pupils don’t go hungry.  The Government must respond to the huge impact that rising costs are having on families and public services like schools.”

Jonathan Bursnall, Headteacher at Brook Street Primary School in Carlisle, said:

“I know from speaking with other Headteachers, that for many children the school dinner is likely to be their only hot meal of the day. Because of rising costs for ingredients that’s putting pressure on what, and how much, we can offer pupils at lunchtime unless we increase prices, and we know that is unaffordable for many families.

“That’s why it’s so welcome that the county council has listened to schools about what’s happening, and this funding will help protect access to healthy, nutritious food for our pupils.”

The council provides a range of support for people and businesses who need support, for more information about cost-of-living support, visit

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