A SCHEME to provide free meals to children in Coventry who need them over half-term has been launched by the city council which has joined forces with businesses, charities and voluntary organisations.
It was created after the Government voted against a proposal to issue vouchers during school holidays until next spring to children who receive free school meals and follows the idea championed by Manchester United and England footballer Marcus Rashford MBE.
In response to the proposal not making it through Parliament, the organisations across Coventry have come together to offer packed lunches during the half-term break.
The Coventry Food Network, which is supported by Coventry City Council, is coordinating the offer and the network consists of foodbanks, ‘grub hubs’ and social supermarkets across the city.
In the last 24 hours it has received numerous offers of support from local businesses across the city. A number of other businesses are also making their own direct offers on social media.
Coventry City Council has committed to support the Network by helping to coordinate the response, providing staff, transport and distribution points as well as a commitment to replace all food the Network uses to provide free school meals.
City Council leader Coun George Duggins praised the efforts of organisations across the city, describing it as a real One Coventry approach.
He said: “I am proud, but not in the least bit surprised, to see so many local businesses, charities and other organisations offering to step in and provide meals to children who need them this half-term.
“I, like so many people, was angry with the Government’s refusal to continue to provide free school meals to those young children who need it the most, and whose families are really struggling because of the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic.
“The levelling up agenda lies in ruins because if this Government won’t deal with hunger amongst our children how can it even start on a levelling up agenda.
“But in response, we are working closely with the Coventry Food Network, businesses and other organisations – as we have throughout this pandemic – to continue to offer help and support to those who need it most.
“Together we will make sure that no Coventry child goes hungry in the school holidays.”
Coun Faye Abbott, Chair of Feeding Coventry which is part of the Coventry Food Network, added: “Despite the government refusal to continue to provide free school meals vouchers over the half term holidays, putting pressure on thousands of already stretched family budgets, I’m delighted by the response from members of the Coventry Food Network and other community led organisations and businesses in the city.
“Between us we can ensure all our children have access to good quality food during the school holidays.
“We welcome the ongoing support from the council and the public as we continue our efforts to support families struggling financially during these difficult times.
“I would encourage anyone that needs support in this way to get in touch.”
Anyone needing free school meal support for children this half-term holiday should call 08085 834 333 Monday to Friday.