No.10 Keeps Refusing To Praise Businesses For Offering Free Meals To Children

Dozens of people have responded to Marcus Rashford’s anti-hunger campaign by offering to help feed families after the Tories refused to extend support over holidays.

Downing Street has refused to praise dozens of businesses that have offered to feed the country’s poorest children in response to Marcus Rashford’s anti-hunger campaign.

Starting on Thursday night, the England footballer – who has spent months campaigning to stop child hunger through school holidays – shared posts from businesses and groups nationwide that are volunteering free food for children who may otherwise go hungry.

From free sandwiches, sausages and curries to the offer of taxis to the nearest available foodbank, dozens of posts have now been shared online as millions of families face a half term of potential hardship. Some 322 Tory MPs on Wednesday voted down a motion to extend free school meals to the holidays.

Asked whether Boris Johnson would praise those firms offering food, a No.10 spokesperson dodged the question and instead told reporters: “We’ve set out our position a number of times.

“There’s no change.

“As we have set out before we’re in a different position now with schools back open to all and the vast majority of pupils back in school.

“And I believe the PM said during PMQs free school meals will continue during term time and he wants to continue to support families throughout the crisis and there is cash available to feed kids if they need to.”

Asked whether the prime minister would applaud councils that have got involved of their own volition, he appeared to criticise them, saying: “Whilst schools continue to play an integral role in the community it’s not for schools to regularly provide food to pupils during school holidays.”

And he added, again: “As we’ve said before, we’re in a different position now with schools back open.

“But we have done a lot to make sure the most vulnerable in our society are protected and that has included extending free school meals to support those eligible when schools were partially closed during lockdown, increasing universal credit by £20 a week, and £63m funding for councils to provide emergency assistance to families with food, essentials and meals.”

Pressed a third time on whether the PM would praise or applaud those offering meals, the spokesperson responded: “The PM’s answered this question himself on Wednesday. You’ve got his words from Wednesday.”

The prime minister did not answer anything of the sort on Wednesday. Downing Street was referring to Johnson’s comments during prime minister’s questions, when he refused three times to agree to extending free meal support – as he did through a voucher scheme in the summer – over the coming holiday periods.

“We support kids on low incomes in school and we will continue to do so,” he told MPs on Wednesday.

“What I want to do is to make sure we continue to support families through the crisis.”

When asked directly by Labour MP George Howarth whether he would support the plan to extend meals to next Easter, Johnson replied: “What we want to do is continue to support people on low incomes throughout the crisis and that’s what we are going to do.”

Responding to No.10's comments on Friday, Labour shadow minister Lucy Powell said: "Where Boris Johnson has turned his back on more than one million children and their families, it is fantastic to see businesses helping out, at a time when so many of them face significant financial challenges.

"It should never have come to this. The government should be ashamed."


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