Councils offer food parcels and vouchers as first day of half-term begins

As children begin their first day of half-term break, many local authorities – including a number of Tory-run councils – are providing food vouchers and parcels to those in need.

The efforts come after the Government defeated a Labour motion to extend free school meals provision in England over the holidays, despite a huge campaign by footballer Marcus Rashford which has since only grown in support.

Conservative-led Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole Council said it would be providing food parcels for families from Monday, tweeting: “No child should go hungry.”

Announcing almost 3,300 youngsters would receive £15 vouchers from their schools to cover the cost of meals during the holiday, Kensington and Chelsea council – which is also Tory-run – said: “No kid should go hungry”.

Other Conservative-controlled councils getting on board include Hillingdon – which is in Boris Johnson’s constituency – Medway and Wandsworth, with the latter approving a £10,000 food voucher scheme.

Wandsworth council’s cabinet member for finance Rory O’Broin said they had “happily set aside the funding that’s needed to ensure children from some of our poorest families don’t go hungry this half term”.

Medway Council said it was using money from the Government’s emergency assistance grant – for all residents struggling financially to get food and other essential items – specifically to provide free school meals to families during October half-term.

The Labour leader of Birmingham City Council pledged to provide 61,000 eligible youngsters with meals in a scheme which will cost the local authority between £800,000 and £1 million, and the mayor of Liverpool said he was “not prepared to stand by and watch”, as he announced £300,000 of funding.

Coventry City Council said it was supporting the Coventry Food Network – made up of foodbanks, “grub hubs” and social supermarkets – to coordinate efforts to feed disadvantaged children in the city.

The council said it was providing staff, transport and distribution points and committed to replace all food the network uses for free school meals.

Labour leader George Duggins said he was “angry with the Government’s refusal to continue to provide free school meals to those young children who need it the most”.

Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis insisted the Government is providing support despite not extending free school meals provision (Jeff Overs/PA)
Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis insisted the Government is providing support despite not extending free school meals provision (Jeff Overs/PA)

Northamptonshire County Council (NCC) said it would provide free school meal vouchers to eligible children “using the money received from central government and provided to NCC for Covid-19-related costs, which includes support for children”.

On Sunday, Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis insisted the Government had provided support, increasing Universal Credit and giving £63 million to local authorities to help people in their communities at a time of hardship.

Back in June, the Government announced a one-off £120 million fund to benefit some 1.3 million children in England over the six-week summer period.

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