Birmingham charities and community groups are stepping up to feed the city’s children this half term, after the Government voted against extending support for free school meals in school holidays until Easter 2021.
The free school meals bid was tabled by the Labour party, inspired by Manchester United’s Marcus Rashford and his campaign, but it was defeated in Parliament on Wednesday evening.
One charity, Midland Mencap, announced that they would be providing free packed lunches to children in the Weoley Castle area.
Dave Pickard, the Head of Community Operations, says they’ve been overwhelmed by the community response and support.
“Ever since we announced it this morning, the response from the community has been incredible. The phone lines have been off the hook, it’s been crazy!”
Midland Mencap, who work to support those with learning disabilities and additional needs, have had to set up a booking system to safely accommodate all those who need their packed lunches.
“The original plan was to self-fund the meals, but so many people have got in touch asking how they can give food or money. It’s such a proper community effort.”
Who else is helping out?
South Birmingham Lunches, started by two Birmingham friends in response to the vote, will deliver a week’s worth of food for children in Rubery, Northfield, Frankley, Bromsgrove and Rednal. They also plan to hold a collection service.
EJB Buffets & Banquets, a catering company, will be handing out and delivering free school meals from their base in Sutton Coldfield.
How does Birmingham match up to the rest of the country?
The latest data from the Government shows that 46.3% of pupils in Birmingham from state-funded secondary schools, and 38.2% of state-funded primary schools, have been eligible for free school meals over the last 6 years.
This compares to a national average of 27.7% eligibility for state funded secondary schools, and 23% eligibility for state funded primary schools.