Birmingham City Council has issued over £3m worth of supermarket vouchers to support thousands of families across the city during the February half-term.

The vouchers were distributed via almost 450 schools, to help feed more than 165,000 Birmingham children, including all those currently accessing free school meals. Now, Deputy Leader of the council Councillor Sharon Thompson has warned that future efforts to tackle holiday hunger could be at risk unless the Government agrees to extend the Household Support Fund (HSF) - a nationwide scheme established in response to the cost-of-living crisis.

She said: "The cost-of-living crisis is still hitting families in Birmingham and across the UK, which is why councils and charities are urging the Government to extend the Household Support Fund. In Birmingham, we've used the HSF to fund a wide range of projects, including this voucher scheme to combat the growing problem of holiday hunger.

"This support really does make a difference, because far too many families struggle to feed their children during the school holidays, and without the Household Support Fund, many families, including those in Birmingham, will not receive the vital help they need and issues like holiday hunger will affect even more of our children. Hopefully the Government will listen to the growing calls to extend the fund." In Birmingham, in addition to the food vouchers, HSF has enabled the council to:

Support 169 of the city’s food banks to provide food for 24,000 people per week. Fund a network of three hundred Warm Spaces, with a capacity to host over 60,000 of our most deprived citizens.

Add new Capacity in the council's Information and Guidance Service, which has subsequently identified £4m of new unclaimed benefits for our residents. Similar vital work has been undertaken nationwide, and ahead of the Chancellor’s Spring Budget, a wide range of organisations including The Local Government Association, Core Cities, Barnardo’s, and the Children’s Society have urged the Government to extend the HSF beyond 31 March.

Holiday hunger occurs when children and families are unable to afford sufficient nutritious food during school holidays. Evidence shows that many families struggle to feed their children during the school holidays, resulting in foodbank use and parents skipping meals as a ‘coping strategy’ so that their children will be fed over the school holidays.

Persistent or repeated episodes of holiday hunger have a negative effect on children’s physical, mental and emotional wellbeing, and has an adverse impact on their attainment and achievement when at school. To cover the February half-term in Birmingham, vouchers worth £20 were available for the following children:

  • All children on free school meals
  • and all children attending the 318 schools located in the 20% most deprived areas in England, according to the income deprivation affecting children index (a subdomain of the index for multiple deprivation 2019)

Birmingham City Council is distributing these supermarket vouchers worth up to £20 with partners at Pluxee.