Free School Meals: More Essex businesses pledge to support families

MORE and more generous Essex businesses and organisations are pledging to support families-in-need this half term, to ensure no children are forced to go without food.

Earlier this week, the Labour Party submitted a motion in parliament proposing the extension of the free school meals scheme until at least Easter 2021.

Manchester United footballer Marcus Rashford MBE had backed the campaign, stressing the need for struggling children to have access to food when not at school.

It was subsequently defeated by a majority of 61 after 322 MPs voted against it, including Clacton’s Giles Watling, Colchester’s Will Quince, and Braintree’s James Cleverly.

Since the vote, which has proved to be a real political sticking point for politicians, hundreds of organisations across the country have inspiringly stepped up.

In north Essex, there has also been an endless display of compassion from businesses and communities offering free initiatives for the half term holiday.

Here is a list of some of the organisations across the county working to ensure no child goes hungry:

Bird and Bean, Frinton

The quaint coffee shop, in Connaught Avenue, is giving away free kids sandwiches everyday next week from 12pm until 2pm.

A spokesman for the business said: “No kids are going hungry on our watch.

“Those in power may feel it is acceptable to take away food from children who need it most, well we are not having it.”

No other purchases will need to be made.

Cup of Coffee, Clacton

The tiny café, tucked away in Rosemary Road, is also offering to feed all kids for free throughout the half term.

Hot meals and sandwiches are up for grabs between 12pm and 3pm, and any child who is accompanied by an adult can benefit from the offer.

No other purchases will need to be made.

A Cup of Coffee spokesman said: “It is 2020, hunger shouldn’t be a problem in our country, but it is.”

OAKHouse, Maldon

The cool-looking bar and café, in the High Street, will give all children a free meal and parents do not have to place an order to qualify for the offer.

General manager, Elliot Vale, said: “We don’t want to get too deep when it comes to politics, but the bottom line is we don’t believe any child should go hungry.

“We are therefore standing shoulder to shoulder with Marcus Rashford by offering free meals to children of school age throughout half term.

“This is the least we can do to support families in our area when they need it most.”

Willow Tree Nursery, Clacton

The Chingford Avenue pre-school is giving away 100 packed lunches for children in the area.

The lunches will be available every day during the half term between 10.30am and 12pm.

Jessica Brading, senior nursery manager at Willow Tree Nursery, said: “Hunger damages physical health and can cause personal distress.

“It is essential we enable all children the ability to reach their developmental milestones and ensure they are not restricted by food insecurities.

“We are hoping to relieve an element of hardship within the community.”

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Yellow Brick Road Nursery, Holland-on-Sea

This nursery is running a holiday club during the school holiday for children up to the age of ten years old on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.

At the club sessions, which children can attend between 9am and 1pm, or 9am and 3pm, free lunches will be on offer.

A spokesman said: “In light of the government’s decision to not back Marcus Rashford’s cause, we will be offering all our children a free lunch.”

The Royal Hotel and My Big Fat Greek Taverna, Clacton

Jason Smedley, who runs the Royal Hotel and My Big Fat Greek Taverna, in Marine Parade East, has decided to step up after “the Government didn’t”.

His two seafront businesses will offer free kids meals all next week and parents again will not have to purchase anything in order for their children to be eligible.

Mr Smedley added: “These are horrible times for most. Let us make it as normal and happy half term as possible.”

Monkey Bizzness, Hockley

The indoor play centre also wanted to do its bit to ensure children are fed this half term.

They appealed to their customers to help them raise £1,000 so they could fund 1,000 free packed lunches for families-in-need.

The target was subsequently smashed in just 12 hours, and they are now trying to hit £5,000 so they can help feed even more children.

A spokesman for Monkey Bizzness, which is run by Carley and Toni, said: “We honestly thought that it would take all week to maybe achieve half of that amount, so it’s really humbling and heart-warming.

“This is obviously brilliant news, and as promised we’re going to keep the appeal going so that we can plan more projects like this for the future.

“In the meantime, we’re brushing up on our speedy bread buttering skills.”

Ramen + Chill, Southend

This cocktail bar and grill, based in Hamlet Court Road, is offering free packed lunches for children over the half term.

The meals will be available on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday next week and will include sandwiches, fruit, goodies, and soft drinks.

More than 500 are expected to available on each of the three days, which has also been achievable thanks donations made by the wider community.

A spokesman for Ramen + Chill said: “Some of you may or may not know that our owner is an ex-teacher.

“So, the blood is boiling in our building knowing that the Government will not back free school meals during the holidays.

“So, we want to do our bit and help our community.”

“If you need a packed lunch or know anyone that will benefit from this send us a private message and let us know what and how many you need.”

Bobby Bobs Salon, Halstead

Helping with a difference, Bobby Bobs Salon, in Halstead is given away free haircuts to young girls during the half term.

To qualify for the offer, the children must be aged between four and 18.