Ipswich restaurant to offer free meals to school pupils at half-term – after Government says it won’t
PUBLISHED: 12:43 22 October 2020 | UPDATED: 14:40 22 October 2020
An Ipswich family-run restaurant will offer free lunches to schoolchildren during half-term – after branding the Government “appalling” for not extending the free school meals scheme into holidays.
Tina Leamon, who manages The Grill at Twenty5 alongside her son James, said she was “so disappointed” that a motion put forward by Labour to provide meals to students during the holidays was defeated in a parliament vote.
In response, Mrs Leamon has committed to feeding children during forthcoming school breaks at her eatery in St Nicholas Street.
She said: “No child should go hungry. We protect children against all sorts of things - these children do not ask not to be fed. I’m quite appalled that the government would vote against it.
“We would like to try and help those struggling that little bit more for whatever reason. We disagree with yesterday’s vote on school meals and whilst we can’t help everyone, we hope this will help at least one person.
“During next week’s half term we will be offering a free meal to any child of school age. The accompanying parent/carer does not need to buy anything.”
From Monday to Friday during half-term, children visiting the restaurant with their families will be eligible for a free meal and drink between the hours of 12pm and 2pm, with no proof of age or other purchase required.
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Despite the struggles facing the hospitality industry, Mrs Leamon believes it is the right thing to do - and called on other restaurants in Suffolk to offer a similar scheme.
She said: “As long as our restaurant is open in school holidays, we will feed children. It’s not right that children aren’t being fed.
“I just hope that other places can do the same.”
Throughout the coronavirus crisis, footballer Marcus Rashford has spearheaded a campaign for the government to extend the free school meal voucher scheme over the holidays.
The government eventually performed a U-turn and allowed for the families of 1.3million children to claim the vouchers over the six-week long school summer break.
With the October half-term break fast approaching, the Labour Party had proposed extending the scheme until the Easter break next year, with many families still facing financial hardship amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
But their efforts to overturn the government’s decision failed in a vote in the House of Commons, with MPs voting against the motion by 322 votes to 261.
The Government has said it is supporting low-income families through the welfare system, having raised Universal Credit by £20 a week.
Six of Suffolk’s seven Conservative MPs voted against the proposals, with Central Suffolk and North Ipswich member Dr Dan Poulter absent from the vote.
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