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Sadiq Khan announces extension to free holiday meals programme in London

Sadiq Khan has announced an extension to his free holiday meals programme, as new polling reveals that 35 per cent of London parents and carers are cutting back on food and essentials.

The London mayor launched the scheme as a one-year policy in April 2023 to help families with the cost of living, but on Thursday said he would commit £4m to keep it going for a further 12 months.

The scheme provides ready-made and cook-at-home meals to low-income families, thanks to a partnership between the Mayor’s Fund for London and The Felix Project charity. The meals are distributed by a network of school holiday activities and charities.

The announcement comes just one week after Mr Khan revealed plans to also extend his free school meal programme – which provides lunches to all primary school children during term time – to cover the 2024/25 academic year.

Mr Khan said: “I’m immensely proud that our funding for free holiday meals has already helped to deliver more than 10m free meals to hundreds of thousands of London families and young people.

“Londoners continue to struggle with the cost of living crisis, with families worrying about how to feed their children, which is why I’m stepping in with a proposed £4m funding to deliver these vital meals for another year.”

Charlotte Hill OBE, CEO of the Felix Project, said: “We know free holiday meal provision is vital, the same as free school meals. For so many children it is the only way they are guaranteed to get a delicious, healthy meal during the school holidays.

“We are therefore delighted that the mayor has announced plans to extend funding to his free holiday meals programme.”

The mayor’s announcement came as new YouGov polling commissioned by City Hall found that 35 per cent of parents or carers of children under 18 are buying less food and essentials.

41 per cent said they are using less water, energy or fuel to keep costs down, while 30 per cent are ‘financially struggling’.

13 per cent are borrowing money from friends or family, and 14 per cent said they are using more credit or going into debt.

More than 10.1m holiday meals have so far been provided under the mayor’s programme, with over a million more expected to be given out by the end of the March this year.