School continues to provide free meals during half term

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Marcus Rashford praises Telford cafes for stepping up to provide free school meals

Rashford's viral campaign came after MPs rejected a bid from Labour, backed by the footballer, to extend free school meals over the school holidays until Easter 2021.

While the British prime minister has faced accusations of fomenting divisions this week with his COVID-19 strategy, the Manchester United and England footballer - still a few days shy of his 23rd birthday - has demonstrated a remarkable gift for bringing people together.

Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage tweeted: "If the Government can subsidise Eat Out to Help Out, not being seen to give poor kids lunch in the school holidays looks mean and is wrong".

Marcus Rashford renewed his invitation to the Government for a meeting on Friday night, as he prepared to take his extraordinary public campaign for an extension of free school meals into this weekend.

Marcus Rashford is campaigning for free school meals for children in the holidays
Marcus Rashford is campaigning for free school meals for children in the holidays

Cllr Keith Aspden, Liberal Democrat Leader of City of York Council, said: "Whilst it is clear after what happened this week that the government are willing to stand by and do nothing whilst vulnerable children go hungry, as a council we are not".

Bowring cafe says it started free meals for children just before lockdown started but then the cafe was forced to close because of the pandemic.

The Government has said enough support was already available for families facing hardship.

This time it has refused to do so, saying it has given councils £63m for families facing financial difficulties due to pandemic restrictions, as well as increasing welfare support by £9.3bn.

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Rashford said he was "blown away" by the response to the nationwide campaign.

"No child should go hungry".

However, MP David Simmonds, who represents Ruislip, Northwood and Pinner, said the scheme "on its own is not going to get the help to people that need it".

Commenting on a school in Mansfield, Ben Bradley said that "one kid lives in a crack den, another in a brothel".

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The council's families chief, Cllr Kaya Comer-Schwartz added: "We recognise that the financial pressure families are now facing is huge - there will be additional food costs faced by families over the half term break, and we refuse to stand by and let them struggle alone".

"Citizens Advice Medway will be providing food and vouchers to eligible vulnerable families over the next two weeks".

"I am truly overwhelmed by the outpouring of support".

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