‘Don’t ruin Christmas’ – Bosses urge free meals U-turn before festive holidays
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Bosses serving up free meals to hungry children this half-term have urged the government to “think again” before the Christmas holidays.
A bid by England striker Marcus Rashford to extend free school meals into the October break failed last week but anger continues to rise against the government’s decision.
And now business leaders are focussing on the festive period when most children will be off school for two weeks.
During half term dozens of this region’s pubs, restaurants, cafes and youth clubs – many struggling themselves because of Covid – have rallied to offer packed lunches and hot meals to youngsters who normally get a free school meal.
A total of 18,767 children are registered to receive free school meals in Norfolk – here is a list of eateries offering help this half term.
Andrew Livingstone, who runs the Duke’s Head, Great Yarmouth, said he had been left flabbergasted by the public support for his plan to hand out food.
“I’ve had so much support from community groups and local businesses that I have enough to be able to run the free meals again over the Christmas holidays,” he said. “I had one regular customer come in and give us £150, saying: ‘You shouldn’t be doing this out of your own pocket’.”
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The former headteacher also believes a plan to make sure children do not go hungry during the December holiday must be sorted. He is calling on the government to create a funded scheme involving schools and their kitchens over Christmas which would also help employ people over that period.
He added: “A school kitchen is geared up to provide food on a big scale – why couldn’t they open during the Christmas holidays?“
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In Dereham, Perfect Catch fish and chip shop is offering a range of food to youngsters who rely on school lunch.
And boss Andrew Pillar is demanding the government ensure more is done to help the needy as the winter months loom.
“I do think with Christmas just around the corner due to the difficulties everyone has faced this year so far, the government should do a U-turn,” he said.
“As a parent myself its always a stressful time of year and to put families under even more pressure of worrying about being able to feed their children is just wrong. I hope after all the support from local businesses helping to support these families the government will change their minds in time for Christmas.”