A FOODBANK chairman reports hearing from headteachers who have dug into their own pockets to help struggling families feed their children during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Michael Beckett, who heads up Colchester Foodbank, fears his teams of volunteers could be preparing hundreds of food parcels to help families in need this week.

With half term commencing, a Government scheme to provide £15 weekly vouchers to pupils from low-income families has been suspended for the week.

Mr Beckett said: “Because the Government has, at short notice so people can’t really plan, removed food vouchers for meals, parents who would typically get free school meal vouchers during the pandemic are coping without.

“With half term coming we are dealing with schools ringing us.

“We want to make sure parents are able to cope.

“Many families were expecting to receive the vouchers as before, as the policy has only recently been changed without much reporting of this.”

Mr Beckett said on a busy day, the foodbank can expect to hand out around 20 packages to people in crisis.

But he anticipates as many as 400 extra packages could be handed out as low-income families are left struggling over half term.

“Schools are dealing with enough as it is without worrying about how to feed people,” he said.

“We were beginning to move towards a less-busy status, but now I am organising double shifts for this week.

“Headteachers have been spending their own money to support families and we have stepped in to see if we can be part of the supply.”

He added: “I can tell you I have spoken to several headteachers who have had their hands in their own pockets, it is not an isolated example.

“They do so to make sure pupils don’t go without that meal this week.”

A Government spokesman said: “We continue to encourage schools to work with their suppliers to arrange food parcels or collections for families eligible for free school meals.

“Where that is not possible, the national voucher scheme was launched for schools to provide supermarket vouchers, which is delivering for thousands of schools.

“There are also over 1,000 schools currently taking part in our national school breakfast programme.”

The spokesman added free school meals provision is ordinarily for term-time only and that this approach is continually under review.

The vouchers were available over the Easter holidays.

The national free school meal voucher scheme was first launched in April.

Colchester Foodbank is looking to expand its services to cover Stanway.

It is also on the lookout for warehouses or space to grow its operation.