Free school meal providers across the UK are featured in a new interactive map as campaigners continue to call on the government to do more to support vulnerable children and families.
The map features over 1,200 different organisations, including pubs, cafes, councils and food banks, who have all pledged to step in and provide food to vulnerable children after MPs rejected calls to extend the free school meals programme.
“I heard a couple of days ago that going in to the debate the feeling was that the British public wouldn’t care about the issue of child hunger a second time around,” wrote Marcus Rashford, who has been spearheading the campaign with his Child Food Poverty Taskforce. “Boy did you prove that theory wrong…”
The Child Food Poverty Taskforce proposals were voted down in Parliament on October 21, leading to an outpouring of support from cafes, restaurants and businesses. Rashford shared many with his 3.4 million Twitter followers, inspiring a collective of digital and social media experts called TechForUK to add the providers to a map.
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Alison Killing, an architect and urban designer who is one of the central figures in TechForUK, said: “It’s just about getting the information from the people who are offering it to the people who are needing it.
“It’s a bit of a race against time as it’s already Monday lunch and there are four more lunches to go. We just want as many eyeballs on it as possible, so please spread the word as widely as you can.”
Zoom in on the free school meals map in your local area to find a local provider. Or, if you are able to offer support to those who need it, businesses and organisations can add their information to the map by filling in an online form.
Rashford’s Child Food Poverty Taskforce, which includes supermarkets, fast food restaurants and large food manufacturers, said the group “remains focused on seeing the implementation of the three national food strategy policy recommendations.”
“The strategy is a government-commissioned document built from extensive research and data capture,” said the taskforce in a statement. “As a collective, we support and endorse these recommendations, one of which is the expansion of holiday provision (food and activites) to support all children on free school meals, that will help reach an additional 1.1 million. We welcome collaboration from the Government on effectively combating child food poverty across the UK.”
— Marcus Rashford MBE (@MarcusRashford) October 25, 2020
The Prime Minister dismissed the campaign in the hours before it was rejected in Parliament, saying poor families were already supported through the Universal Credit benefits system.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock told the BBC the government had already provided £63m, announced in June, in support for local councils which would cover free school meals for children who need them.
But the Conservative leader of Warwickshire County Council told the BBC they had already spent the money they received through the £63m fund and it was not enough to fund additional school meals.
Joe Freeman started his own version of the free school meals map on Friday before joining TechForUK. The digital and social media expert from south London said “it’s really incredible to see the public support” behind Rashford’s campaign.
“I wanted to make sure there was one place for everyone who needs this really important help to access it,” he told The Big Issue. “The best thing this map can do is to help people who need free school meals over the half term to use it to find somewhere that means they won’t be going to bed hungry.”
Image: Flickr/Cheshire East Council