Pubs and cafes step in to help after MPs reject Rashford school meals campaign

Dozens of businesses have been showing their support for families in need over the holidays Credit: PA Images

Cafes, pubs and restaurants across the country have stepped up to offer free school meals for local children during half term, after MPs rejected a campaign started by footballer Marcus Rashford.

A vote on the measures was backed by Labour and made its way to Parliament this week, but it was defeated by 322 votes to 261.

England football star Marcus Rashford called on people to “unite” to protect the most vulnerable children Credit: PA Images

Now dozens of hospitality businesses have shown they "stand with Rashford, not the 322", by supporting families during the school holidays.

Among them is Hayley-Doune Parker, who owns The Wheatsheaf Pub in Weedon. Hayley-Doune is offering a free packed lunch to children over half term to families who are eligible for free school meals.

Having seen that Marcus Rashford has been a voice for kids for free school meals and the vote in Parliament against, we thought we would support our local community so that schoolchildren don't hungry.

Hayley-Doune Parker, The Wheatsheaf Pub

Rosie Storrar runs The Gilt Rooms in West Mersea in Essex. She has also offered to help, she said: "For us it's about giving back to the community, that have given so much to us and enabled us to keep going through the difficult times.

Rosie says it's just a small gesture. She continued: "We're open it's what we do every day but to be able to give it to your children whilst you may also be experiencing financial difficulty is just something for us to say thank you."

Another pub in the mix is the Dukes Head in Great Yarmouth who are offering packed lunches over half term.

No child should be going hungry in the UK. No child should be living in poverty. With grateful thanks to local businesses we are now able to offer 40 packed lunches next week. Thank you for being part of the UNITY in community!

Dukes Head, Great Yarmouth

The acts of generosity come amid a difficult time for the hospitality industry, with many business owners struggling to cope with the effects of coronavirus restrictions on their trade.

Rashford, who was recently awarded an MBE after forcing a Government U-turn on free school meal vouchers over the summer holidays, said he was "blown away" by the offers of support, and has been retweeting businesses offering free meals.

"Selflessness, kindness, togetherness, this is the England I know," the Manchester United footballer tweeted.

"Add #ENDCHILDFOODPOVERTY to your tweets so I can track them. I will share as many as I can."

A number of councils have also said they will offer free school meals for children.