Marcus Rashford free school meals

Restaurants rally in support of Marcus Rashford’s free school meals campaign

Bars, restaurants and hotels have answered Marcus Rashford’s calls to end child hunger in England, a day after the Government voted against extending free school meals to disadvantaged children during half term.

Hundreds of businesses in the hospitality industry, despite being on the brink of collapse themselves, have stepped up and offered free food this half term to those who’ve fallen on hard times.

Restaurants, bars and hotels across the nation have flooded social media with gestures of free food including Pearsons Bar in Hull – they tweeted: “we don’t want any child in Hull to go to bed hungry.”

Marcus Rashford free school meals cafe

The Manchester United striker, who was awarded an MBE for his campaign to provide school meals for children during the summer said he was blown away by businesses stepping up to fill the voucher scheme deficit during the October half term.

Rashford, who himself had free school meals, said:

I am blown away by news of local businesses stepping up to fill the voucher scheme deficit during the October half term. Selflessness, kindness, togetherness, – this is the England I know.

He is also urging the nation to support food banks, not only through half-term but during the winter too.

Rashford prompted a government U-turn over free meals in the summer holidays

During the coronavirus lockdown, the Government was providing vouchers to families whose children qualify for free meals.

It said it would not continue to offer support outside of term time but changed its mind following Rashford’s campaign over the summer.

Rashord’s latest petition calls for free school meals for every child from a household on Universal Credit or equivalent, which according to Rashford, would mean that an additional 1.5 million children aged seven to 16 would be eligible.

Marcus Rashford free school meals
Image: Marcus Rashford

A Downing Street spokesman pushed back on Rashford’s plee and insisted that ministers would not provide free school meals to children during the Christmas break, saying: “It’s not for schools to regularly provide food to pupils during the school holidays.”

He added:

We took that decision to extend free school meals during the pandemic when schools were partially closed during lockdown. We’re in a different position now with schools back open to all pupils. We believe the best way to support families outside of term time is through Universal Credit rather than government subsidising meals.

Paul Whiteman, general secretary of school leaders’ union NAHT, said:

We are not in normal times. Normal solutions like Universal Credit may not be enough. Without doubt, the disruption to people’s livelihoods as a result of Covid will mean that even more children are plunged into poverty.”

It’s time we worked together…

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