Free school meals required: Quarter of Kingston children in poverty

Local businesses in Kingston stepped up over half term to offer free meals to vulnerable children.

A quarter of children in Kingston live in poverty according to Trust for London, an independent charitable foundation aiming to tackle poverty and inequality in London.

The businesses set out to help those who were not on a free school meal scheme run by Kingston Council.

A Kingston Liberal Democrats spokesperson said: “We are thankful to local businesses and organisations who went above and beyond providing additional meals for children over half-term, helping us end holiday hunger.”

Big Smoke Brewery (BSB), which owns two pubs in Kingston and Surbiton respectively, offered 1,000 free meals to any parents struggling to feed their children over half term.

Alongside BSB, Prezzo, Pho restaurant, and Wagamama were just three further businesses that offered meals to those in need.

Free school meal scheme

Kingston Council’s website stated that the “most vulnerable” would have access to free school meals over half term.

Conor Bollins, chair of Kingston & Surbiton Labour party, said that this was only a “fraction” of the children who needed help.

“It appears that only a fraction of the children receiving free school meal vouchers who were helped previously will be helped now,” he said.

However, the Council said as well as those already getting vouchers, it allowed those who needed free school meals to be referred to them by their family support worker, or social worker. People could also self-refer through the Council’s Stronger Together Hub.

The allocation of free school meals is normally based on income and the support that someone is already receiving.

Government U-turn

Striker Marcus Rashford campaigned for free school meals Photo: Paul Ellis/AP/Shutterstock

Manchester United striker Marcus Rashford led the campaign to end holiday hunger.

His initiative began following the government’s decision to not support the provision of free school meals over the holidays, and was met with businesses and councils across the country stepping up to help vulnerable children.

The pressure on the government caused it to make a U-turn.

Since then, it has promised £170m to support vulnerable families over winter this year in England, which will pay for the Covid Winter Grant Scheme.

Additionally, the Holiday, Activities and Food programme will ensure that families are able to access support during the Easter, summer and Christmas breaks in 2021.

Bollins said of the U-turn: “We are delighted that people across the country forced the Conservative government into making a U-turn and agreeing to provide Free School Meals over the Christmas break.

“Marcus Rashford has shown a new generation that it is possible to bring about positive change if you are true to your convictions.”

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