Northamptonshire businesses pledge to provide free school meals over holidays

It comes after the Government blocked a bid to extend the free school meals scheme

Free school meals. (Photo: Shutterstock)
Free school meals. (Photo: Shutterstock)

Businesses across the county are offering their help to make sure disadvantaged children don't go hungry over the half-term break.

It comes after the Government blocked a bid this week to to provide 1.4m English children with £15-a-week food vouchers during holidays until next Easter, despite a huge campaign from England and Manchester United striker Marcus Rashford who was made an MBE this month.

All seven of Northamptonshire's Conservative MPs voted against the proposal, with Kettering's MP Philip Hollobone saying it "is not reasonable or sustainable to also ask schools to provide food or undertake additional action when they are closed for the holidays".

And now firms across Northamptonshire, from Oundle in the north to Brackley in the south, are stepping in to support children most at need and continue the free school meals scheme out of their own pockets.

In Corby, Marston's pub The Spread Eagle in Oakley Road will be making packed lunches for those who need them the most from Monday (October 26). They hope to offer, at a minimum, a sandwich, crisps, piece of fruit and a drink.

Within hours of announcing they would be helping out yesterday they already had £200 donated with some people putting a shopping order together with Asda and getting it delivered to the pub to help.

General manager Jaden Knight said: "In no way, shape or form should it ever affect a child. Whatever is going on in the world, whether it's caused by the Government, the economy or a parent's bad choices it should never be the children's fault.

"We could not sit idly by and see that happen. We are getting pounded as an industry at the minute but we have the means and the facilities to do something positive."

Anyone who needs support should send them a private message on Facebook.

In Cottingham CSD activity camp staff had a whip round and contributed their own money to offer free school pack-ups to any child who needs one in the Cottingham area, operating out of Cottingham CE School.

Just down the road in Kettering Next Step Podiatry, Jamie's Quality Butchers, D&J Discount Store and Mark's Fruit and Veg have all joined forces to make sure children in the town don't go hungry over half-term.

They're offering lunch boxes with a sandwich, crisps, fruit, chocolate bar, drink and a yoghurt to those with an NN14, NN15 or NN16 postcode who are eligible for free school meals.

Parents should email [email protected] with proof of their income support, child tax credits or universal credit and how many meals they require and whether they have allergies.

Once they have applied they should go to the back of Jamie's to collect their food between 12noon and 2pm every day between October 26 and November 1.

Those who are struggling or haven't had a chance to apply for free school meals since being made redundant can also apply.

In a social media post Jamie's said: "If the MPs won't help we will. It's time to stay together."

In Northampton Tom Hewer will be working in partnership with the Royal & Derngate next week to make sure those children who rely on school meals are still able to access lunches during the break.

As part of the partnership, a lunch bag consisting of a sandwich, a piece of fruit, a drink and treat can be picked up from John Franklins in Guildhall Road between 11.30am and 12.30pm Monday to Friday next week.

The Hungry Horse in Sixfields is also stepping up to help out.

In a Facebook post, they said: "Many of our team have kids and have been in tough positions before, and this half term we wanted to help.

"Every day next week we’ll be offering two hot kids meals (+ dessert and drink) completely free of charge, to someone who might need it. Just PM us to arrange collection at a time that suits, and we’ll have it boxed and ready to go. No strings, no judgements."

A fundraising page has already raised more than £650 to help feed hungry kids.

Over in Wellingborough, The Piazza will offer 15 free cheese and tomato pizzas on October 26, 28, 29 and 30 to any families that would normally receive free school meals.

They will be available between 11am and 1pm and those who would like to claim one should message them to arrange it.

On social media they said: "Being a family run business with two children of our own, we’d hate to think of any children going hungry so please get in touch if you need us."

In RushdenDeb's Fish Bar in Wellingborough Road will give away free portions of sausage and chips or fish cake and chips to children who would normally receive a free school meal.

They don't normally open on a Monday but will open next Monday just to provide free meals for children. They will not be open on Monday for general business.

Free meals can be picked up between 4pm and 6pm from Monday to Thursday and 12noon and 2pm on Friday.

Yesterday they took £130 in the shop from people offering to help.

In a Facebook post they said: "From the bottom of my heart Rushden thank you. You have brought back my faith in the human race."

Oundle's Beans Coffee Shop will also be providing a free packed lunch to any child who needs it next week.

They said: "Whilst we keep our distance from politics as a business, we disagree entirely with the idea that parents should take sole responsibility for feeding their children, as suggested in Parliament.

"The larger community helps raise a child, and it's at times like this when the community can pull together to help everyone."

And in Brackley Jenny’s will help low income families who would usually receive free school meals by providing them with a hot children’s meal from their menu free of charge, from 11am to 1pm between Monday and Friday.

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