The mother of an eighth grade student died suddenly. Concern for her and her other siblings suddenly fell only on her father. However, he had a problem with a low civil servant salary, and even with a relatively low lunch expense, he was out of money. The school therefore proposed to the father that through the non-profit organization Women for Women, the daughter could obtain free lunches. And it worked.
“The family found themselves in a very difficult situation and at that time it was a great relief for someone to organize lunches for their daughter, and he would at least lose a duty towards all those who suddenly reunited with him”, explains Marek Inderka, head of the school canteen at the Mníšek pod Brdy base, involved in the project.
By the way, Inderka also teaches at the same school, so she combines the organization of meals and lessons in a relatively unusual way. On the other hand, he is able to appreciate even more the positive impact that such an apparent trifle has on the student – when he can go to lunch with his classmates. Due to her family’s situation, the class simply did not take the Fifth Honza.
“Thanks to the fact that he could then go out to lunch with the boys, he suddenly wasn’t separated from the team and he got up in everything,” adds Inderka. About 960 children study at the school, 50 of whom benefit from free meals thanks to the Women for Women Lunches for Children project.
Women for Women is paying lunch for 10,364 children this school year. He will pay more than 52 million crowns for them. The largest amounts – more than 7 million crowns – go to the regions of Ústí nad Labem and Moravia-Silesia. In these regions, the organization also records the highest number of students paying for lunch per school. The number is only as high as in the Karlovy Vary region.
“Our partner is a primary school and most often class teachers themselves, who know the situation of the children through their many years of pedagogical work. The school picks up the children. Our work is very individual. This means that if we now help more than 10,300 children from all over the Czech Republic, we know more than 10,300 children’s stories and their family situations,” says Jana Skopová, head of Women for Women.
They don’t have single women or grandmothers for lunch
Most often, the organization helps single-parent families, 63%. These are mainly single mothers, of whom approximately 17% are single fathers with their children. These families may find themselves in a difficult financial situation in the long term. However, they can also get into trouble due to sudden illness or death in the family, as in the case of the girl’s story mentioned in the introduction. Some parents then give their children money for lunch, and if they manage to save for it, sometimes the children themselves save for food.
Grandparents, for example, struggle to find finances, who are granted custody of their grandchildren by the court. These families represent approximately 2% of all people supported through the Lunch for Children project.
“We had a case of drug-addicted parents. The grandmother raised two children in this way, but it was only with her retirement that she could not tighten everything financially. It is great that we We were able to provide the children with free meals. I really want to thank the Women for Women organization for that,” says Karel Štípek, director of the Msgre B. Staška Primary and Kindergarten School in Domažlice.
The Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs also helps about ten thousand other children. But it has stricter rules. Only parents who are in material need can benefit from the support of the School Lunches project with European funds. The number of children concerned increases from year to year. Three years ago, they were only 5,000, 10,738 last year.
Plus, the benefit of free lunch support is twofold. First, the children get a hot meal at least once a day, and second, school lunches also help them join a regular group. No one knows that their parents don’t pay for their food. Children themselves may not know this, which helps them all the more as they feel more comfortable in school. Many parents are ashamed to say their support and only accept it if it is truly anonymous. In addition, it can be assumed that the number of families who will have problems paying for their children’s meals will increase. Inflation drives up all prices, energy payments rise sharply, and staple food prices rise. In 2020, Women for Women had sent an average of five children to school, today more than double.
How much do school lunches cost?
For this school year, the price of lunches has increased in some school canteens. A new decree came into effect in September, which increased the limits by around 20%. For example, lunch for a student aged 11-14 could cost 19-34 crowns last year, now the price may vary from 23 to 41 crowns. Similarly, prices varied across all age groups.
“This year, we assume that the average price of lunch will increase by at least two crowns. However, in some schools a lunch costs 40 crowns from this year,” says Jana Skopová, head of the organization Women for Women .
Free lunches for Ukrainians too
Refugees from Ukraine are now joining children whose families cannot afford lunch. Also in their case, the schools decide how to pay for their lunches. Some municipalities or boroughs finance the lunches from their own resources. The solidarity of the parents of Czech children helps other schools.
“Parents took the initiative to offer lunches to Ukrainian children. Thanks to the Parents and Friends Club of the school, all those who came have their lunches paid for until June, “describes the director of the Prague primary school Jižní IV Daniel Kaiser.
School lunches project of the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs
Conditions for obtaining and maintaining support:
- a child from 3 to 15 years old,
- the child is entitled to subsistence allowance during the period of confirmation of the target group by the Labor Office (belongs to the group of persons jointly assessed for subsistence allowance),
- the kindergarten/school the child attends is involved in the project,
- the child must consume the food provided directly from the kindergarten/school canteen; any violation of the child’s school attendance must be duly excused.
- the legal representative will sign a certificate of participation in the operational program of food and material aid at the municipal office in the Czech Republic,
- the legal representative will go to the school, where he will sign the consent for the child’s participation in the meal (the form can be obtained at the nursery/primary school or at the boarding school).
Likewise, the Václav Havel Elementary School in Poděbrady cooks for all war refugees housed in a boarding house at the local winter stadium. Thanks to the collection initiated by the students on site. But Ukrainian children as well as their Czech classmates can take part in the Lunch for Children project.
“Since last Wednesday, we have been accepting applications from Czech and Ukrainian children. We make no difference between them. The schools have also received parental consent from us in Ukrainian,” adds Skopová. 25 schools have newly registered for the project .
Similarly, the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs states that Ukrainian children can also use lunch subsidies if their school is involved in the Lunches to Schools project. The conditions are the same for everyone – the family must receive a material need allowance. Since 2018, all regions have been involved in the project, with the regions of Ústí nad Labem, Olomouc, South Bohemia and Pardubice being the latest to join. In the South Bohemia region, only children in kindergartens can benefit from free lunches.