The Department for Education will quadruple funding for a programme offering free school meals and activities for poorer children during the holidays.
Charities and community groups are being asked to bid for a slice of a £9 million fund to deliver holiday clubs for pupils eligible for free school meals in the 2019 summer break.
The programme expands upon a £2m pilot holiday-meals scheme launched last year, which reached 18,000 children, according to DfE statistics.
However, a DfE spokesperson confirmed the funding was “not new, just newly announced” and would come from the department’s settlement.
“We supported more than 18,000 disadvantaged children through our investment this summer – giving young people access to nutritious meals and fun activities,” said children’s minister Nadhim Zahawi.
“Following this successful programme, we have increased funding to £9m for next year and will tailor the scheme so that it has the most benefit for young people and their families."
Teachers have warned that increasing numbers of children are coming to school ill-equipped to learn because they are not being fed enough at home. One former head of a Leeds primary school has previously described to Tes heartbreaking stories of ravenous children scavenging through bins to find food.
Benefit changes were the most commonly cited reason for children being undernourished, closely followed by parental neglect, according to a Tes online poll of teachers earlier this year.
School holidays can be the most difficult time for disadvantaged families who may struggle to feed children who would otherwise be in receipt of free school meals during term time.
Food-bank use has soared in recent years, as welfare benefits for the poorest people have failed to keep pace with the rising cost of living.
UK food-bank provider the Trussel Trust said it distributed 1.33 million emergency supplies in the 2017-18 financial year, up 13 per cent from the previous year.
In Glasgow, a holiday food programme reached more than a fifth of the city’s children in the 2018 summer holidays.