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Waltham Forest College is the first London college to announce they will continue the offer of free meals over the summer holidays targeting the most vulnerable 16-18-year-old students.

Waltham Forest College has made a firm commitment, showing how important the role that further education colleges play in supporting communities across the country and helping those from disadvantaged backgrounds, with extra food support during the COVID-19 pandemic.  

After a campaign by Manchester United footballer Marcus Rashford, the Department for Education extended its free school meals vouchers scheme to feed vulnerable pupils throughout the holidays, however the extended scheme does not currently apply to 16- to 18-year-olds.

College senior leaders ring-fenced some of its budget to provide disadvantaged students with free meals over the summer. The college is the latest FE institution to set aside money to help make sure students have access to food, despite no extra funding from the government to do so.

Principal, Di Gowland said: “We are aware of some of the pressures families are facing and the impact caused on the economy from COVID-19, we want to ensure that our vulnerable students can focus on preparing for their future rather than worrying about going hungry over the summer”.

Research published by the National Union of Students (NUS) in April revealed that 33 percent of FE students have had to cut back on their spending on food since the start of the pandemic.

Di Gowland, said “This is the right decision, totally embracing our values, and we will continue to explore and give support to learners who need it during these unprecedented times. FE colleges have always been the forgotten sector in education for years with huge funding cuts and this is a great example of the proactive measures taken by Waltham Forest College ahead of the government”.

A decision is yet to be made by the Department of Education on whether the scheme will extend to FE colleges. 

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