West County businesses offer free half-term meals in response to Marcus Rashford’s campaign

Manchester United player Marcus Rashford has called on MPs to provide free meals for children during the school holidays. Credit: PA

A growing number of businesses across the West Country are stepping up to offer free meals to children during half term in response to Marcus Rashford’s campaign.

MPs voted against a Labour motion to provide 1.4million disadvantaged children in England with food vouchers during school holidays in the House of Commons on 21 October.

It followed a campaign led by Manchester United player Rashford, who has called on the Government to do more to end child poverty.

Rashford is using his social media platforms to promote businesses offering meals to children during the holidays. Credit: PA

Since the vote, he has used his social media platforms - which have millions of followers - to promote local businesses which have offered to provide free meals during the holidays.

This includes restaurants, village halls and even football clubs based in the West Country, who have pledged to support local families.

During half-term, I will be making free lunch bags for any child who would normally get a free school lunch. No need to buy anything - just come to the counter and ask for a kid’s lunch bag.

The Castle Beach Cafe on Facebook
The stable in Weston-super-Mare has been working to help families in need. Credit: ITV News West Country

The Stable in Weston-super-Mare has given out nearly 20,000 meals to children this year.And some parents are still just finding out how they can be supported.

The team at The Stable has been helping families since March providing food from charity fair share and being supported with other charitable grants.

For us we didn't realise how much we were going to have to respond to the situation and people's anxieties. We just thought we would be providing a meal and that would be great.

Jemma Coles Community hub manager

Coaster Coffee in Minehead has been sharing food donations among the community who has struggled from the financial impact of coronavirus.

We are a very small close knit community and it is an amazing place to live, but the wages aren't very high, lots of people have lost their jobs through the pandemic, lots of people have been furloughed, children were off school for a lot longer. So I think it just depleted all their stocks, all their money so that's why we decided to lend a hand with all of this.

Danielle Prosser, Coaster Coffee

Two Bristol girls have also being doing their bit, with their efforts also capturing the attention of footballer Marcus Rashford.

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For more information on where you can get free meals this half term, see here.

Local councils are also getting involved in the campaign, with several schemes announced to keep the most vulnerable children fed during the holidays.

Plymouth City Council has announced a one-off payment to help families of children entitled to free school meals.

Bristol's Mayor, Marvin Rees, has also reassured parents in the city that they will be supported.

On Twitter he said: "In the absence of national Government support, we've come together with Feeding Bristol, and we will make sure that next week, a food safety net is put in place so that our most vulnerable children and families are not left to fall through the gaps."

Cllr Helen Godwin, Bristol City Council Cabinet Member for Women, Families and Homes says there are 14,000 children in the authority registered for free school meals and the council will not let them go hungry. She says it will step in over Christmas if necessary.

Bath and North East Somerset Council has also announced it is looking into different options. Councillor Kevin Guy, cabinet member for Children's Services, said he was "appalled" at the Government's rejection of the extension.

More than 4,000 children are eligible for free school meals in the area and Cllr Guy said he is "working with cabinet colleagues and local charities" to make sure "no child in B&NES goes hungry over the holiday periods."

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