Pandemic sees increase in number of Harrogate district free school meals


Last updated Jan 14, 2022
Harrogate Grammar School

An extra 350 children in Harrogate district secondary schools have become eligible for free school meals since the coronavirus pandemic began, figures reveal.

A total of 1,143 children were eligible in October 2021, compared with 796 in January 2020.

This means almost 1 in 10 children in the district are now eligible for free school meals. The national average is around 2 in 10.

The Stray Ferret obtained the figures from a freedom of information request to North Yorkshire County Council, the education authority for the district.

To qualify for free school meals a parent must apply to the council with evidence that they are receiving a benefit, such as child tax credit, income support or universal credit.

The issue of free school meals was highlighted following a campaign by Manchester United and England footballer Marcus Rashford.

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Speaking at last week’s Harrogate and Knaresborough Area Constituency Committee, Helen Ingle, health improvement manager at NYCC, said the council was trying to encourage parents of key stage 1 age children to take up free school meals.

If a child is in reception, year one or year two they are automatically entitled to a free school meal.

Ms Ingle also said schools in the district had reported an increase in obesity since the pandemic began.

She said:

“[Covid] has had a massive impact on levels of overweight and obesity, we’re doing a lot of work around that. Schools are very concerned about healthy eating levels in schools and have noticed a change in children’s weight and eatings habits since covid.”

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