Free school meals campaign gathers momentum - despite Government's refusal to back down

A campaign to feed children over the school holidays is gathering momentum - despite MPs voting against Labour's motion to extend free school meals over holidays until Easter next year.

The motion was defeated by 322 votes to 261 - a majority of 61 - with two Conservative MPs from our region breaking rank to vote in favour.

Colne Valley's Jason McCartney and Scunthorpe's Holly Mumby-Croft were among five Tory rebels who supported the motion, sparked by footballer Marcus Rashford’s campaign to extend free school meals over the holidays.

Sheffield City Council has pledged to support thousands of children and young people with free school meals during the half-term week, providing vouchers of £15 per child, per week to all who are eligible for free school meals.

22,000 children in Sheffield are currently in receipt of free school meals and will receive a voucher meaning the total cost will be £330,000.

Council leader Julie Dore said the authority would work with schools and communities to administer the programme.

Following the decision by Government not to support free school meals over the half term, I feel strongly enough to make sure children and young people in Sheffield don’t go hungry over the holidays 

Sheffield Council leader, cllr Julie Dore

In Leeds the city’s business community has rallied to support struggling families, offering free meals to those in need.

And a partnership project which supports thousands of families and carers struggling to feed children out of term time is also set to run over school break.The Healthy Holidays programme, run by Leeds Community Foundation in partnership with Leeds City Council and other organisations, provides children and families with access to meals and activities during the holidays.Since April, the programme has provided just under 130,000 portions of food to children and their families, alongside online activities, face-to-face activities, and activity packs delivered to their homes.

No family should ever be faced with the worry and anxiety of not being able to provide for their children in the holidays, and we have always worked hard to ensurere that every child who lives in poverty in Leeds can have access to healthy, nutritious food- alongside enriching activities- every holiday period

Councillor Fiona Venner, Leeds City Council’s

It's already been announced that thousands of children across Doncaster could benefit from free school meals during half term week.

The Mayor of Doncaster, Ros Jones, says the council will fund meal vouchers for children aged four and upwards who attend schools in the borough. Schools are contacting eligible families.

The vouchers will be for £15 per child per week and more than 11,000 children are eligible to benefit. It will cost the council around £160,000 if all eligible families accept them.

Mayor Ros Jones said she wanted to ensure that children and parents and carers who needed additional support over the half term holiday were given it independent of any national decisions