Falkirk councillors agreed the best way to tackle the problem of holiday hunger was to make a payment working out at £3.50 per day for each child.
The funds will be given to families who are eligible for education maintenance allowance and clothing grants, which is more than those who are entitled to free school meals.
But members of Falkirk Council’s emergency executive also pledged that no-one will be turned away if they are hungry – and ‘grab and go’ lunches will still be on offer at each of the seven hubs that will be open around the district over the holiday to look after key workers’ children.
It will cost the council £683,000 but that cash will come from a Scottish Government grant to help get food to people who need it most during the pandemic.
The decision was made in the expectation that there will be a massive rise in poverty in the Falkirk area as the disruption caused by Covid-19 turns into rising unemployment.
In March this year there were more than 8405 applications for Universal Credit – 2000 more than the same time last year – while crisis grant applications soared by 50 per cent.
The Conservative group argued that continuing the ‘grab and go’ system would mean that staff would continue to keep a closer eye on vulnerable children over the summer months and guarantee that children would get something to eat.
But the SNP’s education spokesperson, Adanna McCue, said she felt the payment of £3.50 would give families more control over how what they were able to feed children.
She said: “Although appreciative, some families are getting fed up with a packed lunch.
“If they have the cash in their bank they can choose what their children eat. They can provide something hot and have more freedom to vary what their children would be eating every day.
She argued that the payments would give “a wee bit of normality and control” to parents at this difficult time for everyone.
“Let’s face it, we’ve all got kids that can be fussy eaters and we know what our children prefer to eat and giving that power to parents would be a far better option over the summer period.”
The Labour group came round to the idea of making the cash payments as they heard that grab and go bags would still be available and social workers and head teachers would continue to keep an eye out for the most vulnerable families over the holidays.
Labour leader Robert Bissett said: “No system is perfect but we hope by having this “blended “ system of payments and hubs we will reach as many families as is humanly possible.”
In the end, there was consensus that the payments, with the back-up of grab and go bags if they were needed, was the way ahead.