CAFE INC may not open this summer and Fife Council need more money if they're going to extend free school meal (FSM) direct payments until August.

Last year, the scheme to tackle holiday hunger provided more than 130,000 meals to children and families in Fife with bases in every community in the Cowdenbeath-Lochgelly area, and there were plans to spend another £400,000 to keep it going this year.

However, Cafe Inc couldn't run at Easter due to lockdown restrictions and there's a doubt whether it can go ahead in July and August.

The council's executive director for communities, Michael Enston, said: "Last summer, we ran the Cafe Inc model as a response to holiday hunger and the fact kids were not getting a school meal during that period.

"That may be more difficult now because of social distancing and because there are many more examples of support out there in the community in terms of local work.

"It could in fact duplicate some of the provision so there's an attractiveness in continuing over the summer with the FSM direct payment model.

"It does come at a cost, £130,000 a week, and members and the council need to give some thought to the question of sustainability and how long we can continue that level of support for."

With the schools closed due to coronavirus, the council agreed that, from March 23, no meals would be prepared in schools other than for those attending children's activity centres.

Instead, a FSM payment of £11.50 per week is being made directly to the parent or guardian's bank account.

There are more than 11,200 children registered and by July 1, the cost is estimated to be £1.9 million.

Councillors were asked at Thursday's policy and co-ordination committee online meeting to consider extending payments for another six weeks, from July 1 to the start of a new school term on August 11.

This would add £780,000 to the cost, taking it to £2.69m.

Cafe Inc is a "less expensive option". During the 2019 summer holidays, it cost around £210,000, which included staffing and the cost of meals, but there's an acknowledgement it can't work the same way this year.

Councillor Helen Law said: "I support the direct payments to families continuing over the summer. It's a long period from July 1 to the schools going back so we have to make sure families get that support.

"Cafe Inc was absolutely great but didn't reach everyone. In parts of my ward, the bus fares to get to Cafe Inc, in Dunfermline, probably outweighed the value of the meal."

Cllr Tim Brett said: "The direct payment addresses the dignity aspect but we don't know how that money is being used. It could be used in all sorts of ways whereas with Cafe Inc, we know it's providing food for children."

To help the council get food to vulnerable communities, Fife was allocated around £2.25m from the Scottish Government Food Fund until the end of June.

The local authority decided to allocate £1.2m for FSM and £1m to "support wider community food resilience" and local food projects.

Given the shortfall in funding FSM, it has been suggested that the council "reconsider" these allocations.

A final decision on what to do over the summer holidays was put off until the next committee meeting on June 18.

A motion was agreed to continue the FSM direct payments to July 1 and to ask officers to come up with detailed and costed plans for a "hybrid" scheme, with a combination of direct payments and direct provision of food by the voluntary sector and the council.