Sinn Féin MLA Karen Mullan has called for the continuation of free school meal payments over the summer holiday period.
The Foyle MLA said:
“Payments made available to families in the absence of free school meals is due to come to an end at the end of June.
“This financial support has benefited over 100,000 children and their families during this period of the COVID-19 crisis and the 30th of June now represents a very real and severe cliff edge for these families.
“We now have a mechanism by which holiday hunger can be addressed through the fortnightly direct payment.
“The Department of Education must extend this financial support right through the summer period.
“Families already struggling financially due to the impact of COVID-19 will struggle over the next two months with the additional cost of food if financial support is not put in place.
“The impact on some of the disadvantaged young people in our society has been exacerbated by COVID-19 and it’s vital we prioritise and support these young people and their families.
“The links between educational underachievement and deprivation are well known and the evidence suggests that children returning to school can often be weeks or months intellectually behind classmates who have access to a more wholesome diet during the holidays.”