KIDS could be missing out on free school meals worth more than half-a-million pounds a year.
Sunderland City Council is sending out letters to families who may be entitled, telling them they could be saving hunreds of pounds every year.
The letter also tells them about the benefits of a hot and nutritious meal and that, unless they decide not to, their details will be passed to the council’s Children’s Services Department.
As well as helping families, the campaign could also boost school budgets. Under the Government’s new Pupil Premium model, schools get additional cash based on the number of pupils on free school meals.
If more families register, then schools could benefit from thousands of pounds in additional income.
Councillor Pat Smith, portfolio holder for children and learning at Sunderland City Council, said: “This campaign is designed to ensure that families can easily access their entitlement to free school meals.
“We don’t want any young person to miss out. Today’s school menus are nutritious and tasty, with a wide choice and build healthy diets into young people’s lives.
“In the past families may have had concerns about free school meals but now all schools operate discrete systems where no one knows who is paying and who isn’t.”
By taking up free school meals, a family could save £1.80 a day per primary school pupil, or £342 a year, and even more for secondary school children.
Malcolm Page, executive director of commercial and corporate services, said: “During these tough economic times, it’s crucial we do all we can to help families.
“This is a good example of how we can use the intelligence we have to pro-actively assist families and make sure they are accessing all the support that is available to them.”
Families will be given the opportunity to opt out of their free entitlement by telephoning tel. 520 5518 or writing to Free School Meals (Room 2.4), Benefits Service, FREEPOST NEA 834, Sunderland SR2 1BR by Wednesday, January 11.