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Newham promises to help after Marcus Rashford campaigns to extend free school meals

PUBLISHED: 12:00 26 October 2020

A number of councils have heeded the call by footballer Marcus Rashford for children who receive free school meals during term time to have them during the holidays too. Picture: PA Wire

A number of councils have heeded the call by footballer Marcus Rashford for children who receive free school meals during term time to have them during the holidays too. Picture: PA Wire

PA Wire/PA Images

The town hall has stepped in to provide funds for free school meals during the half term holiday.

Cllr Zulfiqar Ali is cabinet member for education at the town hall. Pic: Newham CouncilCllr Zulfiqar Ali is cabinet member for education at the town hall. Pic: Newham Council

Newham Council announced on Friday, October 23 that it had pledged the extra to make sure no child in the borough went hungry during the week-long break which started today (October 26).

Cabinet member for education, Cllr Zulfiqar Ali, said: “We share the huge disappointment expressed by England footballer Marcus Rashford following the government’s vote against plans that would have shielded children from hunger this half term.

“Responsibility for this decision lies solely with the government. It’s an absolute outrage that it has turned its back on our most vulnerable families.”

A total of 322 MPs voted against a Labour motion to extend free school meals this half term with 261 in support.

Health secretary Matt Hancock. Picture: Jonathan Brady/PA ImagesHealth secretary Matt Hancock. Picture: Jonathan Brady/PA Images

Food parcels can be ordered from Newham Food Alliance from Monday to Friday between 9am and midday on 07790 975086.

Referrals can also be made online.

Newham has invested £364,000 in the alliance which sees the authority working with more than 30 voluntary organisations to make sure the poorest do not go hungry.

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The town hall’s Eat for Free scheme already offers meals without charge to all primary aged children.

It means a total of 28,000 children attending the borough’s primaries have the option of a free meal.

Businesses, councils and community groups across England are expected to provide thousands of free meals to children on the first day of half term.

Dozens of people from organisations, including Tory-led councils, have stepped in to help, with health secretary Matt Hancock praising their “absolutely wonderful” efforts while insisting millions has already been provided to town halls to help.

Mr Hancock said he agreed “very strongly” with “the purpose” of Rashford’s campaign to extend the scheme into the holidays, telling Sky News: “I think we’re all inspired by the way he’s led that campaign.”

He said universal credit had been increased by £20 a week while £63million has already been provided by central government to local authorities.

But he hinted further help could be given, amid reports the government is planning a partial climbdown in time for the Christmas holidays.

“Our attitude and our purpose it to ensure everybody gets the support they need and no child, of course, no child should go hungry, nobody could possibly want that,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today.

A petition from Rashford has passed 800,000 signatures, piling further pressure on the government.


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