CIVIC chiefs are calling on the government to feed Southampton children during school holidays for the next three years.

City councillors are urging the government to come up with a long-term plan to ensure no child in the city goes hungry.

The news comes as last month Southampton City Council, local residents and businesses pulled together to feed children on free school meals during the October half-term.

At the time the government came under fire for its decision not to feed children during the October school holiday.

The government has since made a U-turned and pledged to support children on free school meals until 2021, including during school holidays.

It stressed that residents and councils have been given unprecedented support during the pandemic.

But city councillors in Southampton are asking the government to go one step further and fund a long-term plan.

Cllr Barrie Margetts said: “The people of Southampton showed that they will not stand by while children go hungry, but this ad hoc approach it is not a sustainable way to ensure food security for all our children. Now is the time to address long term food insecurity in Southampton.”

He said 9,000 children in the city rely on free school meals and the number of families approaching food banks is on the rise. Cllr Margetts said the pandemic will worsen the situation.

He added: “Food security is a fundamental human right. The Southampton City Council calls on the UK government to join with us to end holiday hunger. We call on the government to support the development of a longer term plan to ensure that every child in Southampton is food secure.”

Cllr Lorna Fielker welcomed the government U-turn but described the extra support as a “sticking plaster”.

The government said earlier this month it  launched a £170m grant to support children, families and the most vulnerable over winter and it expanded the holiday activities and food programme to cover Easter, summer and Christmas 2021. 

It said that  funding decisions are taken at the Spending Review each year.

But it highlighted that ministers have taken unprecedented measures during the pandemic to support families and children. Among the measures taken there are increasing Universal Credit and Tax Credits by up to £20 a week  and £63m for councils to provide emergency assistance to families.