Local businesses and councils step in to help feed vulnerable children over school holidays

In amongst all the bad news and extra government restrictions that hang over us like a thick heavy fog, there is a glimmer of hope; a reason to believe that there are still good people out there doing good things. 

Many people are reeling from hearing the outcome of the recent vote in the House of Commons where a majority MPs voted against extending free school meals over the school holidays until Easter 2021 for vulnerable and struggling families. That lot are going to need more than top of the range Silentnight mattresses to help them sleep at night.

When we stumble, there will always be a community to wrap their arms around us and pick us back up

Despite a well-publicised campaign from Manchester United and England player Marcus Rashford, who managed to get the government to U-turn over extending free school meals over the summer holidays, the motion drew 261 votes in favour, with 322 against in the House of Commons chamber. 

Some even took a hard line, sneering that ‘those who can’t feed shouldn’t breed’ with absolutely zero consideration for those who have recently undergone a rapid change of circumstance, are recovering from illness, sudden bereavement or many of the other genuine reasons people sometimes need a little help to get by. It also doesn’t help that, as cooking lessons are no longer offered as standard in schools, a whole generation has never been shown how to prepare basic meals from scratch.

2020 10 23 Fareshare Child

However, despite the hardships that the hospitality industry is suffering right now what with strict guidelines put in place and the 10pm curfew drastically reducing customer numbers, hundreds of restaurants and cafes have stepped in, offering free meals and packed lunches to those in need. Momentum is gathering on the hashtag #ENDCHILDFOODPOVERTY

Many local councils have also been inspired by Rashford’s campaign. Councillor Arooj Shah, Oldham Council’s Deputy Leader with responsibility for tackling poverty in Oldham, said: “The impact of Coronavirus has not just been on people’s health but also their job position and finances and we are concerned there will be even more children going hungry this half term in Oldham.

“That is completely unacceptable and we have decided to step in to fill the financial gap left pitifully by central Government and to make sure those most in need get basic meals. A light has been shone on this vitally important subject by the Manchester United footballer Marcus Rashford and we in Oldham will step up and play our part in these difficult financial times for us all.

“We will also keep the pressure on Central Government to ensure that the free school meals in holiday time campaign is not forgotten and we must ensure our most vulnerable are supported to get a basic meal.”

Rashford, who himself was brought up in a low income family that often had to depend on the support of food banks, used his Twitter account to highlight many of the generous offers which flooded in from all over the country. This has come at a time when we all needed to believe in the good of humanity doing what’s right and believe in a sense of community.

Marcus Rashford was awarded an MBE in the recent Queen’s Birthday Honours list for his services to vulnerable children during Covid 19.

2020 10 23 Marcus Rashford Visits Fare Share Greater Manchester 4 457X457
Fareshare's new unit has been named Melanie Maynard House after Marcus’s mother.

Rashford partnered up with Fareshare last March, the charity that redistributes surplus food to people in need. Earlier this week, he visited Greater Manchester’s new warehouse with his mum Melanie. In Greater Manchester alone, FareShare is now distributing over 80 tonnes of food each week – equivalent to over 200,000 meals – to vulnerable children, families and individuals.

2020 10 23 Fareshare Food Warehouse
FareShare Greater Manchester has launched a fundraising appeal

“The real superstars in this country can be found in the heart of most cities, towns and villages, working tirelessly to support our most vulnerable across the UK,” said Rashford. “As FareShare and other food-related charities approach one of the toughest winters on record, with demand higher than ever before, it is important that I stay connected and lend my support wherever it is needed.

"When we stumble, there will always be a community to wrap their arms around us and pick us back up. For many of us, that is FareShare or the local food bank. Food banks who are staffed with selfless volunteers, dedicating their lives to protecting those most vulnerable - those who, in many cases, have fallen into unforeseen circumstances due to illness, personal loss and unemployment. It should be noted that a lot of these volunteers have themselves suffered unemployment as a result of the pandemic, yet they still strive to help others less fortunate. That to me is the greatest example of what we can do, and the difference we can make, when we just work together."

However the warehouse space is in need of major refurbishment and so FareShare Greater Manchester has launched a £300,000 fundraising appeal - calling for financial donations to fund this vital work as the charity braces for demand to increase further.

To donate to FareShare Greater Manchester’s fundraising appeal, which will help the charity to triple the amount of food distributed to children and families, click here.

Here are more ways you can get on board and help your local community:

2020 10 23 Mustard Tree

Mustard Tree's winter campaign

The Ancoats-based charity that focuses on tackling both the causes and consequences of poverty and homelessness, has launched its winter campaign. They are asking for volunteers to join their team in supporting others. They are also asking for donations of non-perishable food items helps keep their food costs down, so they can use monetary donations elsewhere in the charity. If you’re part of a community group, church, college, school or company, help them combat food poverty this winter by filling a crate for Christmas. Small monthly donations are vital to Mustard Tree so if you are able to make regular contributions, this can be set up online in minutes by clicking here.

2020 10 23 Wood Street Mission Xmas Gift Appeal

Wood Street Mission's Christmas Appeal 2020

The charity which provides support for local low-income families in Salford and Manchester wants to make sure that every child, no matter what their circumstances, wakes up on Christmas day with something special to open and a smile on their face.

In 2019 they distributed 11,280 Christmas gifts to children who would otherwise have gone without and this year, they need your help more than ever. They are now taking donations of new toys, gifts or books, unwrapped for ages 0-14 years, until Friday 11th December 2020.

You can drop gifts off Monday-Friday 8.30am-4.30pm at Wood Street Mission, 26 Wood Street, M3 3EF, or call 0161 834 3140 or email collections@woodstreetmission.org.uk to arrange a collection. The Great Northern Warehouse has also stepped in to provide a Gift Hub drop off point, which will open on 10 November.

Ingeniously, Wood Street Mission has also created Christmas Wish Lists for all ages on Amazon where you can choose toys and gifts to be delivered directly to the charity from the comfort of your own home. (Do it now!)

(Tip – The charity often struggles most with donations for older children and teenagers.)

Also read - Marcus Rashford, Manchester’s Culture Councillor and others recognised in Queen's Birthday Honours

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