A DUMBARTON food bank has welcomed a move to extend the provision of free school meals during the summer holidays as many families are still “struggling terribly” amid the coronaviris pandemic.

The Scottish Government confirmed it will invest £27.6million to ensure local councils are able to continue the provision of free school meals to help low income families.

The number of children receiving free school meals nationally has risen by 53,000 since the start of the pandemic due to the impact it has had on family incomes and financial circumstances.

Clair Coyle, of West Dunbartonshire Community Foodshare, welcomed the news, saying: “We have seen a 50 per cent increase in individuals and families seeking support with food insecurity over the last 12 weeks, therefore it is evident that many families are struggling terribly with the current situation.

“I am sure this news will be welcomed by families who may have come to rely on the lunch provision that West Dunbartonshire Council education department has been providing and may have been worrying about how they will manage throughout the summer.

“West Dunbartonshire Community Foodshare will be once again running its successful Holiday Brunch Bag project throughout the holidays for families we support.”

The extra government funding will also help councils continue to support a range of residents who may be facing new or continuing barriers to accessing food, including due to reduced income caused if they are asked to self-isolate through contact tracing – until the end of September.

Making the announcement, John Swinney, deputy first minister and cabinet secretary for education and skills, said: “This significant additional funding will allow councils to plan for the summer and to continue the existing provision, whether that be offering nutritious free meals for children or through more direct means allowing families to get food for their families.

“Councils will have the flexibility to ensure they are able to use this additional funding to put in place provision that meets local needs and circumstances.”

A West Dunbartonshire Council spokeswoman said they are also running a free holiday programme and a free lunch will be provided to every pupil who attends.