Hackney restaurants and residents ‘step up’ as government ‘fails’ to deliver free school meals during half term
- Credit: 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.
Stoke Newington’s 215 Hackney restaurant is one of many local restaurants providing meals to families in need.
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.”
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.
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“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.
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“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.
“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.
“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.”
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.
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 email@example.com
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 firstname.lastname@example.org to add other businesses and organisations to this list.