Croydon yesterday became one of 28 London boroughs to defy the Tory government and arrange for those children who normally receive free school meals to continue to be fed over the half-term holiday.
No formal announcement has been made on the council website, though the local authority’s Twitter feed yesterday at lunchtime (suitably) put out the message: “If your family usually receives free school meals and you’re struggling during half-term, you can apply to our schools team for supermarket vouchers. Contact email@example.com“.
The response of hundreds of councils and businesses across the country comes in response to the campaign instigated by Manchester United footballer, Marcus Rashford, in an effort to reduce and eliminate food poverty among the nation’s children.
Since the coronavirus pandemic, many of those in low-paid jobs have had their hours cut and income reduced. When their not getting their daily meal at school, many children have gone hungry.
Last week in parliament, the Conservatives – including local Tory MPs Chris Phil and Paul Scully – voted against a Commons motion that would have seen the government fund meals for children.
Of the four London boroughs who have not yet put together a meals scheme for this week’s half-term break are the Conservative-controlled near-neighbours Bromley and Bexley.
In neighbouring Sutton, a LibDem-controlled council, they are still… thinking about it. On their Twitter feed yesterday, they wrote that the council there “is working on a scheme to support families and ensure no child goes hungry. Full details including on eligibility to follow”. The local Labour Party is running a petition calling on the council to pull its finger out (the dates of this half-term week have been known for years).
In Croydon and across the capital, many community-spirited businesses have rallied to the free meals cause and inspired by Rashford’s campaign are offering children food.
To find a business near you which is part of the scheme, visit https://www.schoolmealfinder.org/ and enter your postcode.
“Food poverty among children is a really important issue,” a member of Croydon’s community covid-19 support group said today.
“Our appeals for donations to food banks remain in place, as the demand for help has not reduced since the easing of lockdown. In fact, some food banks report even greater demand as some families have come to the end of their furlough period.
“But what businesses are doing to help over half-term is heart-warming and can only be congratulated – as Marcus Rashford has shown, there are still many people who want to do the right thing by their community.
“We just hope that those Croydon residents who are able to help to support some of these businesses with their custom in the coming weeks, as a gesture of thanks.”
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