FAMILIES of young people who are entitled to Free School Meals will receive food grants during school holidays from Christmas 2020.
Education Minister Peter Weir has announced the scheme which will run until Easter 2022 and is expected to cost up to around £40 million.
Well over 100,000 children will benefit.
Peter Weir said: “I welcome the decision by the Executive to support my proposal to fund a School Holiday Food Grant scheme.
"This is very good news, especially for those families who are struggling financially during this pandemic.
“The issue of ‘holiday hunger’ has become an increasing concern this year and I have worked, with my Executive colleagues, to address this by providing food payments to families during the summer and Halloween holidays and indeed when schools were forced to close.
“I realise the vital importance for children who normally receive a free school meal to have access to a nutritious meal without placing their family under further hardship in these difficult times.”
“This is a very worrying time for families particularly those with school age children and these payments will help to support them during school holiday periods.
"Access to a healthy nutritious meal should be a basic right for all children and it is vital that we continue this support to ensure children and young people come back to school after holiday periods, healthy and ready to learn.
" Their future depends on it.”
School holiday grant payments will be made direct to families to cover all school holiday periods, including mid-term breaks (approximately 20 weeks) between Christmas 2020 and Easter 2022.
Concluding the Minister said: “Over 100,000 children are currently entitled to a free school meal. As Christmas 2020 approaches the Executive recognises the additional challenges all families will face and in particular those with school aged children.
“The School Holiday Food Grant scheme will help struggling families to provide food for their children and leave them with one less issue to worry about.”
Families of children entitled to free school meals should receive a two week grant payment from week beginning December 14.