Volunteers, businesses and organisations have united to ensure the availability of food for children in the North East.
Over 4 000 packed lunches were distributed across Newcastle this half term as volunteers and community organisations pledged to help feed children who would normally receive free school meals.
On 21 October, the government defeated a motion in the House of Commons to fund the provision of free school meals during school holidays until Easter 2021 by 322 votes to 261.
In response to the decision, businesses and other organisations across the North East have extended their support towards struggling families. This comes following an campaign by footballer Marcus Rashford for free meals to be available over the school holidays .
Restaurants, cafes, sports clubs and a host of voluntary and community sector organisations throughout the city offered to back Rashford’s campaign and provide free meals, as soon as the government’s decision was announced.
Councillor Nick Forbes, leader of Newcastle City Council, said, “The community spirit in our city never ceases to amaze me".
He went on to say, “We were faced with a potential disaster due to the government’s disgraceful decision to leave thousands of vulnerable families struggling to fend for themselves. It has been a remarkable response from the city, and a fantastic reminder of why we’re all proud to call Newcastle our home".
Newcastle City Council has also vowed to a backstop that commits itself to providing food to any child who normally receives free school meals if they were still in need of support.
Steve Mack, Operations Manager of the Newcastle United Foundation charity, said, “The Council identified an area they needed support with, and we were delighted to be able to help. It was great for Newcastle United Football Club, Newcastle United Foundation and Newcastle City Council to work together and make an impact on our community”.
He continued, “It’s important we demonstrate to the community that we’re there for them in times of need”.
Newcastle families in need can register to receive lunches for their children while schools are closed by visiting newcastle.gov.uk/welfare or by calling 0800 170 7001.