Free School Meals: North London councils, volunteer groups and business pull together to feed children in need over half-term
- Credit: Archant
The whole community is really amazing.”
Tami Isaacs Pearce, manager at Karma Bread in South End Green, summed up the scale of the community response to the government decision not to provide food over half term to children who usually get free school meals.
Tami has been providing 30 meals a day to children in need – while the Camden Council itself has stepped up and explained it will give vouchers to 13,000 children to help their families through the holidays.
Council leader Cllr Georgia Gould said: “In a borough with as much wealth as Camden, we must step up to our shared responsibility to care for every child who grows up here – particularly the most vulnerable.”
Haringey followed suit with a voucher offering, while Barnet put £50,000 into a grant scheme aimed at helping needy children over the holidays.
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While the government voted against extending the provision over the half-term holidays, councils, businesses like Tami’s and community groups have filled the gap and warned food poverty does not disappear when pupils return to school.
In response to campaigning from footballer Marcus Rashford, Camden announced there move on Friday, October 23. Haringey Council followed suit, announcing it will also share vouchers with the families of children eligible for school meals, while Barnet said it will provide a £50,000 grant to a new fund established with the Young Barnet Foundation to support those in need.
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At local food banks – such as those operated at JW3 in Finchley Road, out of Highgate Newtown Community Centre’s temporary premises in the Whittington Estate, and in Muswell Hill – the work to feed those in need has continued apace.
Volunteers in Muswell Hill rapidly raised £4,000 to help deliver food parcels to kids in need over the week.
On Monday, Hampstead and Kilburn MP Tulip Siddiq visited JW3 to help feed those in need. Tulip, shadow minister for children, has been vocal in opposing the government’s refusal to feed schoolchildren over the holidays.
Writing this week in the Ham&High, Tulip said: “I know that providing free school meals over the holidays won’t fix child poverty overnight, but it will help many families through an extremely difficult period in their lives.”
Raymond Simonson, chief executive at JW3, said: “We are more determined than ever to carry on this work, especially as we see the level of need continuing to rise across Camden.
“This week, to mark half term, we’ll also be sending art packs to families in need, kindly donated by Camden Art Centre, to keep the kids’ creativity running when schools aren’t.”
Highgate Newtown Community Centre has also launched a winter appeal to help people over Christmas time. Mags O’Reilly who has run the food bank established their for most of the year, told the Ham&High “Demand is going up. Not exponentially but it is, people are still coming to us and needing our help. Half-term for our families is bound to be more difficult. I have to say Camden Council have done a really positive thing.”
READ MORE: Free School Meals: We need a rethink about how our institutions treat those sufferingREAD MORE: Camden Council commits to feeding children over half term, with other councils urged to follow