COMMUNITY food pantries, care leavers and vulnerable children are all set to receive a much-needed boost through the winter.

Hampshire County Council has committed to spending more than £5m supporting vulnerable households, following a decision day last week.

Of this money, £1.67m will be spent on vouchers for children eligible for free school meals over Christmas and February half-term, with a further £1m going to district and borough councils for exceptional housing support.

The county council will also give £525,000 for community pantries – which offer food at lower costs than supermarkets and teach people how to cook.

Hayley Maspero, strategic department development manager at Hampshire County Council, said: “Hampshire County Council has been awarded £7.1m from the DWP’s household support grant for those most in need with food, energy and water bills.

“Funding has already been allocated from this fund to vulnerable children in food vouchers for October half-term and this will further support these households during the winter period.

“A core part of our offer continues to be the free school meal vouchers with £15 per week, per child. We estimate that will benefit over 37,000 children – this time we will be offering families a supermarket or community pantry voucher which we feel is a better offer.

“We think using Citizens Advice will reduce the potential for double funding with other grants and secure financial support being provided alongside the payment.

“We would also like to issue our food pantries with food and fuel vouchers so they can help further individuals that haven’t received support through other means.”

Cllr Roz Chadd, executive member for education and skills at the county council

Councillor Roz Chadd, the Executive Lead Member for Children’s Services, said: ‘I am delighted to agree this package of measures on behalf of the county council.

‘The last couple of years have been tough with exceptional challenges for everyone but there are many people for whom it has been especially difficult.

“Some of our Hampshire residents on low incomes are struggling to pay for essentials like their food, keeping themselves and their homes warm and covering the cost of utilities.

“With this new funding we can support a range of schemes that offer a helping hand to people in need and, in doing so, build resilience in our communities.”