'You can’t put a price on children’s welfare, hence why ourselves and many others have taken it upon ourselves to help out'

Tanwen Dawn-Hiscox

Tanwen Dawn-Hiscox

Deputy Editor 26th October 2020

Hospitality businesses up and down the country are offering free meals for schoolchildren during half term, after MPs rejected a campaign started by footballer Marcus Rashford MBE.

Tom Kerridge, Mark J Poynton, James Allcock, Kenny Atkinson, the team at Rockcliffe Hall, and businesses across London including The Quality Chop House, Trello and both branches of Padella, all three Bao venues and both Rum Kitchen sites are among those involved, and a petition for ministers to reconsider the issue and honour the Child Poverty Task Force's demands has reached almost 900,000 signatures at the time of writing this.

 

The petition reads:  "With the Child Food Poverty Taskforce, I am calling for Government to allocate money to

  • Expand free school meals to all under-16s where a parent or guardian is in receipt of Universal Credit or equivalent benefit
  • Provide meals & activities during all holidays
  • Increase the value of Healthy Start vouchers to at least £4.25 per week, and expand the scheme.

These 3 recommendations must be implemented without delay to #endchildfoodpoverty."

As public pressure mounts, councils have committed their own budgets to ensure there is a continuation in the provisions of free school meals.

Measures are due to be reconsidered despite having been voted down by government by 322 votes to 261 last week.

Senior Tory backbenchers have attacked Number 10's position, while the opposition has promised to table another motion for Christmas holidays if there is no U-turn.

This morning, hinting at a possible concession, Health Secretary Matt Hancock told Sky News: "I agree very strongly with the purpose of the campaign. The purpose is that no child should go hungry. The question is how we fulfill that."

Responding to criticism, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said children will not go hungry "a result of any Government inattention", according to The Telegraph.

He said that the government is raising universal credit entitlements, which he called "one of the best ways you can help families in these tough times". 

He added: "We don't want to see children going hungry this winter, this Christmas, certainly not as a result of any inattention by this Government - and you are not going to see that."

Speaking to The Staff Canteen, Kenny Atkinson said that despite the hardships the hospitality industry faces, these cannot overshadow the effects of child poverty in the UK. 

"As a father myself it's heartbreaking to hear that families will struggle to feed their children during half term as a result to families struggling financially - especially more so during this unprecedented time in our country’s history.

"All businesses are struggling financially too as a result of Covid, but you can’t put a price on children’s welfare, hence why ourselves and many others have taken it upon ourselves to help out.

"We have offered to create lunches for children during half term to help struggling families feed their children.

"The financial cost isn’t important to us, but the welfare and mental health of children and families in our community is."

The chef and owner of The House of Tides remarked that supermarkets - whose revenues have skyrocketed amid the crisis - should do their part. He said: "They chuck so much stuff into the bins that could be donated to help families and the government to do more too.

"They have capitalised so much on the back of Covid, they should be helping too."

Footballer Marcus Rashford, who was recently awarded an MBE after instigating a government U-turn on free school meal vouchers over the summer holidays, said he was “blown away” by the offers of support.

“Selflessness, kindness, togetherness, this is the England I know,” he Tweeted.

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

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Tanwen Dawn-Hiscox

Tanwen Dawn-Hiscox

Deputy Editor 26th October 2020

'You can’t put a price on children’s welfare, hence why ourselves and many others have taken it upon ourselves to help out'