Downing Street withholds praise for business and local authorities offering free meals to hungry children

Prime Minister Boris Johnson during a media briefing in Downing Street, London, on coronavirus (COVI

Prime minister Boris Johnson during a media briefing in Downing Street, London, on coronavirus (COVID-19)

Downing Street has refused to praise cafes, pubs and restaurants offering to provide free meals for vulnerable children over half term.

The prime minister's official spokesperson was given three opportunities to express satisfactions with businesses pitching in to feed the UK's poorest kids.

Instead, they said: "As we have set out before, we are in a different position now with schools back open to all and the vast majority of pupils back to school.

“I believe the PM said during PMQs that free school meals will continue during term time and that he wants to continue to support families throughout the crisis so they have cash available to feed kids if they need to.”

It comes as dozens of businesses and local authorities have stepped in to provide free meals for children over the holidays after a motion to extend the free school meals scheme was voted down by Tory MPs.

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London's Southwark Council will spend up to £10,000 issuing food vouchers to every eligible pupil to ensure they can get food over half term.

Liverpool City has pledged to do something similar. Mayor Joe Anderson told the PA news agency: “I am having budget meetings where I am struggling to find £20,000 in savings, but we had to find £300,000 to support 20,000 children in the city, but I know what it’s like not to have food on the table.

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“I know what it’s like to eat a jam butty for your tea. I know what it’s like. I have been there, I was brought up in poverty. I am not prepared to stand by and watch when I know families out there are really struggling, week in, week out for months now.

“They have got a government that really doesn’t care and doesn’t understand.”

This is on top of a fundraiser set up by comedian Katy Brand has gathered £35,000 in donations after receiving the backing of celebrities including Nigella Lawson.

Brand said she was now aiming to raise £50,000 with the campaign, with the proceeds going to the charities FareShare, the Trussell Trust and Magic Breakfast.

Marcus Rashford, who has been lobbying government to extend the free meal vouchers, praised the work businesses in a series of tweets.

He wrote: "Blown away by news of local businesses stepping up to fill the voucher scheme deficit during the October half term.

"Selflessness, kindness, togetherness, this is the England I know."

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