SCHOOLCHILDREN in West Somerset stand to benefit from a £5 million new grants scheme to help give them a healthier start in life.

The scheme, supported by UK community charity Groundwork, will replace the current Tesco Community Grants funding programme.

It will focus on encouraging schools which lack funds and resources to apply for extra financial help they might need to provide healthy food and activities which boost young people’s mental and physical wellbeing.

The new initiative will enable West Somerset schools to apply for support funding to provide pupils with the nutritious food they need throughout the school day, as well as resources to keep them physically active by using new sports and play equipment or outdoor activities.

Recent findings from Groundwork showed 78 per cent of schools were currently having to provide food for children from their own budget.

Data from the Child Poverty Action Group showed 800,000 children living in poverty were not eligible for free school meals and two million children did not have access to a healthy diet.

Tesco UK chief executive Jason Tarry said: “Tackling classroom hunger is vitally important in helping children get a stronger start in life.

“Children with enough food have more energy, better concentration and ultimately do better in school.

“As a business that is at the heart of communities, we know that urgent action is needed to improve the lives and prospects of young people.

“We hope our initiative will help families and schools that are struggling to keep children fed.”

Schools will be able to apply via Groundwork for a grant of up to £1,500 to put toward activities which focus on providing food to pupils such as fruit for breakfast clubs or snacks to enjoy throughout the day, and for equipment for outdoor and indoor activities.

Successful applications will go to a customer vote in their local Tesco store.

Two out of the three blue token voting boxes by the checkouts will be dedicated to local schools with the third given over to community projects nominated by each store’s colleagues.

Somerset customers can then choose which of the three projects they would like to support by voting with a blue token.

Groundwork UK chief executive Graham Duxbury said: “Schools are at the heart of our communities, and we have supported thousands of projects led by teachers and parents.

“We know that schools are now doing everything they can to help families cope with the rising cost of living, but that school budgets are also under huge pressure.

“We are really pleased that through the Tesco programme we can now focus attention on helping schools provide extra support to those who need it most, helping families make ends meet and helping children learn and flourish.”

The initiative will be boosted by Tesco’s Golden Grants events, which saw it give away £1 million last year to mark reaching £100 million worth of grants awarded to communities through the Tesco Community Grants Fund.

In 2023/24, Tesco will award 200 £5,000 ‘Golden Grants’ to schools and local projects.

This month also saw Tesco publish its community impact report.

Since its community grants programme launched in 2015 it has awarded more than £100 million in funding to more than 50,000 community projects, with grant awards decided by 700,000 votes cast by Tesco customers in stores across the UK.

The programme has helped tackle homelessness, promote diversity, and support communities during the Covid 19 pandemic.

It has supported veterans through charities based in garrison towns and kept children happy and active through sport.

More recently, it has helped provide what was most needed to families through funding for food, mental health support, lifesaving equipment, and specialist resources.