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Hackney restaurants and residents ‘step up’ as government ‘fails’ to deliver free school meals during half term

PUBLISHED: 16:23 27 October 2020 | UPDATED: 11:19 28 October 2020

Chick 'n' Sours restaruant in Dalston is providing free school meals with each child receiving a kids meal which includes chicken tenders and fries. Picture: Chick 'n' Sours

Chick 'n' Sours restaruant in Dalston is providing free school meals with each child receiving a kids meal which includes chicken tenders and fries. Picture: Chick 'n' Sours

Chick 'n' Sours

Hackney businesses, charities and churches have stepped in to help school children after MPs voted against a Labour motion to provide free school meals during the holidays.

215 Hackney in Stoke Newington is offering free school meals over the school holiday. Picture: 215 Hackney215 Hackney in Stoke Newington is offering free school meals over the school holiday. Picture: 215 Hackney

Stoke Newington’s 215 Hackney restaurant is one of many local restaurants providing meals to families in need.

READ MORE: Hackney Council steps in to back Marcus Rashford campaign after government votes against free school meal holiday extension

Co-owner Cemal Polat told the Gazette how he and his business partner Ali Kalkan relied on free school meals when they were children: “We were both on free school meals and we know how important it was to be on [them].

“Our parents used to work so hard to make ends meet and it was so important for us to have free school meals.”

215 Hackney restaurant ownerss Cemal Polat and Ali Kalkan have lived in Hackney almost 30 years. Picture: Ferhat Elik215 Hackney restaurant ownerss Cemal Polat and Ali Kalkan have lived in Hackney almost 30 years. Picture: Ferhat Elik

Chick ‘n’ Sours restaurant in Dalston is working with a local school and its free school meals have proven so popular it has “pretty much reached” it’s limit, though owner David Wolanksi, says there are still meals available for collection on Friday.

“We can’t guarantee we’ll be able to feed everyone who gets in touch but we’ll do our best,” he said.

He says the pandemic has hit “everyone hard” and it’s not just during the holidays that families, the elderly and the vulnerable need assistance.

“People have lost their jobs which has had a huge effect on their lives. Holidays can be expensive at the best of times, trying to keep them entertained so they enjoy their time off school.

Stormont House School's head chef Charlie Gabriel came to the school in November 2019 as part of a charity inititative run by Chefs for Schools. Picture: Grainne HyltonStormont House School's head chef Charlie Gabriel came to the school in November 2019 as part of a charity inititative run by Chefs for Schools. Picture: Grainne Hylton

“Feeding them only compounds this, so hopefully our little treat will put a smile on some of their faces.”

The restaurant has supported the local community since 2015 when it opened with meals for the elderly, local organisations and school raffles.

“This is another chance to deliver on that promise and directly help those in our community who need it most,” David said.

But the government says it is supporting local councils and many of the organisations helping out during the coronavirus crisis and is “uplifting” universal credit by £1,000.

School staff and parents helped to deliver food parcels to about 70 families during lockdown and will continue providing meals to help families in need. Picture: Grainne HyltonSchool staff and parents helped to deliver food parcels to about 70 families during lockdown and will continue providing meals to help families in need. Picture: Grainne Hylton

READ MORE: Hackney school children could still go hungry despite summer extension of free school meals

“We think that is one of the best ways you can help families in this tough time,” Prime Minister Boris Johnson said.

He stated that he “totally understands” the issue of holiday hunger but debated about how the issue should be dealt with.

The Prime Minster added: “We do not want to see children going hungry this winter, this Christmas, certainly not as a result of any inattention by this government.

“You’re not going to see that.”

READ MORE: Thousands more people in Hackney are ‘struggling to afford basic essentials,’ says foodbank

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However, Grainne Hylton, business manager of special needs school Stormont House in Lower Clapton, said the prime minister’s promise that children would not be going hungry this winter is not reflected in what she is “seeing on the ground”.

She finds it “astounding” that children in a developed country like the UK are going hungry: “I don’t understand why the government can’t just extend this initiative through the holidays until families are out of this nightmare situation, much like Wales have just done.”

The Welsh government has pledged to extend free school meal provision to every school holiday until Easter 2021, spending £11m on the scheme while in England, and Northern Ireland, free school meals are only being provided during term time.

Stormont House School’s staff, parents and head chef Charlie Gabriel started providing free meals to families when school’s shut due to Covid-19 on March 20 and have continued cooking, with the help of an initiative run by the charity Chefs in Schools, to help families in need.

READ MORE: There With You: Lower Clapton school delivers free meals to families during coronavirus lockdown

Restauarants like The Waterhouse Project have also started to giving out free meals over the holidays.

Patricia Waterhouse from the Waterhouse Project said they plan to carry on serving the community with free meals once school starts back up again.

She was “amazed” by the community response adding: “All the business and people stepping into help. I think it’s so special.”

Local churches like Holy Trinity in Hoxton are also making sure children don’t go hungry.

Vicar, Father Andrew Newcombe said: “I’m pleased that Holy Trinity Hoxton is stepping up, taking action and supporting families in need during this half term.”

Organisations providing free school meals until October 30(listed in alphabetical order):

215 Hackney: 215 Stoke Newington High Street, N16 0LH. Meals for collection Mon-Fri via online booking at 215hackney.co.uk. Write ‘free school meals’ in the comments section between 9am - 4.30pm.

Chick ‘n’ Sours: 390 Kingsland Road, Dalsto, E8 4AA. Meals for collection on Friday. Anyone who usually would receive a free school meals can direct message @chicknsours on Instagram or email hello@chicknsours.co.uk

Friends of Ours: 61 Pitfield Street, Hoxton, N1 6BU. Meals for collection Mon-Fri, between 8am - 4pm.

Holy Trinity Hoxton Church: Bletchley Street, Hoxton, N1 7QG. Hot meals for collection/eat via text /Whatsapp on 07405226030. Write ‘save a plate’ on Wednesday and Friday between 8am - 11am and 4pm-7pm.

Padella Shoreditch: 1 Phipp St, Hackney, London, EC2A 4PS. Pasta kits for collection, Mon-Fri from Midday.

Randy’s Wing Bar: Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, 28 East Bay Lane, Here East, E15 2GW. Meals for collection/ eat in via email on randyswingbar.co.uk. Mon-Fri between 2pm and 4pm.

The Waterhouse Project: Mare Street, E8 4RP. Walk-in/Drop-in service. No need to let the restaurant know beforehand.

The Pembury Tavern: Teaming up with ACE Pizza to offer free meals for kids between 4pm-6pm Mon-Fri. In addition, £1 from every pizza sold during the week will be donated to Hackney Food Bank.

Contact holly.chant@archant.co.uk to add other businesses and organisations to this list.


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