OXFORDSHIRE County Council has announced more than ten alternative ways for kids who are eligible for free school meals to get free food this half term.

See the full list below. 

It comes after the county's Labour councillors sent an email to the county's four Conservative MPs and the county council leaders yesterday voicing their concerns about the decision not to provide vulnerable children across the country with much-needed food over this half term. 

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The statement also called on the county council to follow in the footsteps of the Labour led Oxford City Council 'supporting children with school meals voucher scheme and working with many local community groups to supply families with food over half term.' 

The county council said in response: "Help continues to be available, should it be required, during half term in Oxfordshire for families of children in receipt of free school meals.

"All six Oxfordshire councils have been working together very closely with community and voluntary partners to help families across the county access food and essential supplies.

"Support mechanisms are in place to help vulnerable families, and these have been targeted at those who need it most. Oxfordshire’s councils have a strong track record of delivery through third-sector partners and these links shone through during the lockdown period earlier this year.

Read here: These are the places offering free school meals in Oxfordshire 

"Oxfordshire County Council has already passed a grant of more than £500,000 – received from central government on 31 July – to the district councils; Good Food Oxford and South Oxfordshire Food and Education Alliance.

"Countywide services for children are open as normal during half term to respond to families needing assistance."

The county council also highlighted a number of local schemes and initiatives aimed at children and families during this half term period:

  • Cherwell District Council is running activator sessions in Grimsbury and Neithrop followed by warm healthy snacks. Family cooking bags will also be given out to families with ingredients and recipe cards to encourage healthy cooking at home.
  • In West Oxfordshire a number of schemes are operational to help support children through organisations such as Witney Fridge, Eynsham Community Larder, Carterton Foodbank, Witney Besom and Chippy Larder in Chipping Norton. Lots of local businesses are also making ready-made meals. Using Government funding Citizens Advice West Oxfordshire is providing food vouchers and debt advice for people who are struggling to manage.  
  • Ox4FreeFoodCrew is extending its offer to school children and their parents in the city, with a café open for any families in need too. Others providing assistance include Barton Larder (Barton community centre), SYRCOX, and Rose Hill junior youth club.
  • South Oxfordshire and Vale of White Horse  – The councils continue to support residents who are struggling to fund food – whether that is because of school meals not being available or any other reason. This is being done through our established community hub and we are working with partners to provide appropriate support where it is identified as needed.    

Read also: Over 10,000 kids in Oxfordshire are eligible for free school meals 

County Councillor Lorraine Lindsay-Gale, cabinet minister for education and cultural services, said:

“There is a wide array of existing support available to families and children during half term throughout Oxfordshire.

“We have well-established networks with the voluntary sector. As is the case on a 24 hour and 365 days a year basis, our children’s early help and social care teams at the county council can also provide support for families in crisis.

“We keep all support for food provision to families under review, however, there is already a comprehensive network of support for this half term period.”

In Oxfordshire, there are 10,127 school children eligible for free school meals - 10.5 per cent of pupils.

Nationwide 17.3 per cent of school children are eligible.