Rosedene Nurseries is offering free lunches for two-year-olds eligible for funded meals to support families impacted by the cost-of-living crisis.
Many low-income families rely on government-funded free school meals which only become available once the child turns three, so the nursery group, which has ten settings across Tees Valley and North Yorkshire, is giving eligible two-year-olds attending the nursery an all-day meal package, including a hot midday meal, at no cost to the parents.
The initiative was originally introduced to counteract the reduction in Universal Credit after the pandemic however it became apparent that more people needed help to feed their children nutritious food every day.
Recent research by the Trussell Trust found that foodbank use in the UK has increased by 128 per cent over the past five years, with a 33 per cent increase in emergency food parcels needed between 1 April 2020 and 31 March 2021. Of these 2.5 million parcels, 46,084 went to children in the North East of England.
Laura Weir, manager of Rosedene Nursery in Hardwick, said: “We are seeing the damaging effects of the ever-growing cost of living crisis, so we felt it was responsible to do something to help.
“We knew a number of our parents would be impacted by the removal of the Universal Credit uplift, but with the increase in fuel, energy and food prices, we decided to offer free meals to any two-year-olds who would be entitled to them once they turn three.
“With many families now having to choose between heating and eating, and the necessity to provide growing children with at least one hot, nutritious meal per day, our parents know that their toddlers will come home from nursery with a tummy full of good food.
“We have a fantastic chef and the children love sitting down together and enjoying their lunches. It’s a brilliant routine for us to share.”