Published: 12:13, 23 October 2020
| Updated: 10:35, 27 October 2020
Organisations and charities across Kent have united to feed hungry children this half term after 322 members of parliament voted against extending free school meals for the country's poorest.
Footballer Marcus Rashford, who was awarded an MBE for his work around the same topic earlier in lockdown, had backed proposals for £15-a-week food vouchers during the school holidays between now and Easter.
In Kent, Rosie Duffield (Lab), was the only MP to vote for the motion. From the Conservatives Sir Roger Gale and Tracey Crouch abstained, while the remaining 14 MPs voted against.
Several responded to questions from KentOnline on their reasons for voting. They said the current Universal Credit system already helps these families and pointed to the fact that they were the first government to offer out-of-school term vouchers over the summer.
There are 52,000 children in Kent who are eligible for the scheme.
Here's how local communities are helping them:
Hartsdown Academy in Margate has announced it will be providing free school meal vouchers this half term.
In a letter posted on the website, head teacher Matt Tate said: "I am pleased to announce that we are in a position to provide free school meal vouchers over half term.We are able to do this because we have sufficient money in our FSM budget to do so."
Marcus Rashford was praised on the school's Twitter page for being an inspirationfor the way he has "relentlessly campaigned" to end child food poverty.
It said: "He has used his celebrity status to draw attention to important social issues has been positive, constructive and provided an excellent example to many young people. #FreeSchoolMeals."
Tonbridge JustGiving page
Zoe Duerden has created a JustGiving page for the Trussell Trust, a charity which supports a network of food banks across the country. More than £1,000 has already been raised.
On the page, she wrote: "This week I was heartbroken to see our MP, Tom Tugendhat, vote against Marcus Rashford’s amazing campaign to make sure the poorest kids in the country get a decent meal over the school holidays.
"In the middle of a pandemic and a massive recession so many kids will be going to bed hungry when the holidays start - and it’s not right. Rather than just get angry, my friends and I got together to show even if our MP doesn’t care about this, we do.
"So please donate to show that the people of Tonbridge won’t let kids go hungry."
You can donate to the page here.
Mr Tugendhat responded to the criticism of his decision on his website. He said: "I have always argued that all parents and families should be respected and treated with dignity.
"That means that all families should have the choice to spend their money where they see fit, however much they earn and whatever they have—even if that’s money from the state. Every parent has to ensure their family is well fed, that goes without saying.
"The government rightly supports families who are struggling with this responsibility through Universal Credit and other methods of support. In the five years I have been lucky to represent Tonbridge, Edenbridge and Malling I have helped hundreds of different families in need to boost their income, to better support their children.
"The idea that I, or any other politician, would vote to take away free meals from children in need or deliberately harm our community is wrong and untrue. There are legitimate discussions we need to have on how we structure welfare but dishonesty and game-playing makes it harder to find the answers we all need."
Gillingham Street Angels
In Medway, Gillingham Street Angels have also pledged to do their bit.
They run soup kitchens for anyone who needs the help.
Posting on its social media channels, the charity has said they will provide free fruit and vegetables to families who rely on the scheme.
It read: "Following the shocking announcement that free meals will not be continued over this half term, Gillingham street angels will be helping those children affected in Medway, by offering free fruit and vegetables to those familiesthat rely on the scheme to feed their children, especially in these difficult times.
"We're lucky to be supported by Ocado, Tesco, FareShare, Dobbies and Sainsbury's to make this possible. We're all in it together, our hub is open from 9am till 1pm Monday to Saturday at 43 Skinner Street Gillingham."
The Dead Pigeon, Rochester
The Dead Pigeon micropub in Rochester is among those to be offering relief for struggling families.
In a post on its Facebook page it said: "No matter what our political beliefs may be there is one thing we can all agree on and that is no child should go hungry!
"During the half term next week we will be offering free pizza to any child who qualifies for a free school meal or for anyone who is struggling to feed their children!
"Please note this will be a collection service rather than eat in.
"We are unsure of demand and would hate to run out of stock and not be able to feed people so we ask that you register here.
"All we need is an email address so we can send you details for finding us and info on the day etc and how many children you wish to bring so we can meet any demand.
"Please feel free to share if you think it may help someone."
Elsewhere in Medway, Bryant Road Fish Bar, at 89 Bryant Road, are offering free sausage and chips for families.
Karen Khaira said: "We do not want anyone going hungry over the school half term holidays, so we are giving free kids sausage and chips.
"This will be collection only and maximum three to a family."
Chatham Town Football Club
The club is also offering to feed youngsters who need it during half term.
A post on its Facebook page said: "If you know any child who will go hungry next week during half term we will provide a meal either at the club or delivered to their door between Monday, 26 October to Sunday, 2nd November.
"Contact us in confidence via DM or by any of our social media accounts."
The restaurant in Margate has asked for donations to help feed those in need this half term holiday.
Matt Day, who opened his restaurant in The Centre in February and also has a premises in Manston, put out a post on Facebook, offering a free lunch to children who need it.
Speaking to KentOnline he said: "We don't know the reasons why MPs voted the way they did, it's a hard time for everyone, including the government, so I want to support where I can.
"It's down to local businesses who have a platform and who are in a position to be able to help."
Mr Day says families who may feel embarrassed about asking for support feeding their children can call up and place an order for collection, just leaving their name.
They will be able to get food including sandwiches, crisps and drinks for free. Mr Day says he would like at some point to offer deliveries to these households.
"We want to help and at the moment we are in a position that we can," he added.
Mr Day says despite the pandemic, business for the restaurant has boomed and his four-strong team increased to 40 during lockdown.
"People started ordering food for delivery and it went mad," he said. "I still can't get my head around it."
The menu includes hot and cold food such as burgers, loaded fries, breakfast baps, sandwiches and wraps.
To place an order for a free holiday meal call 01843 446911.
Nourish Community Food Bank, Tunbridge Wells
Nourish Community Food Bank works with local schools and other community groups in the Tunbridge Wells area to assist those in need.
Paddock Wood Cllr Matthew Bailey has set up a crowd funding campaign for the local charity which helps provide meals for children from low-income families.
He posted on the page: "With the plight of children from low-income families this half term very much in the news, I believe we should take action to help disadvantaged children in our area.
"Less talk and political point scoring and more action!
Click here to donate or share the page
The Swanscombe Food Cellar
The Food Cellar has been operating in Swanscombe High Street for just over a year but saw an upsurge in demand once the Covid-19 pandemic hit.
It is backed by local churches and supported by the fundraising activities of the Northfleet and Ebbsfleet Lions charity.
Next Thursday, October 29, the food bank will be open from 12pm to 2pm to provide lunches for children.
All those families who need assistance during the school half term are invited to come along.
Beach 48 Fish and Chips, Dymchurch
The chippy in High Street, Dymchurch, are joining in on the good will.
They posted on their Facebook page, saying: "Here at Beach 48 we are a family run business working through these uncertain times.
"Following the Governments recent announcement that they will not be extending free school meals through half term, we would like to offer a hot children's meal."
The shop is providing sausage and chips and slice of cake to families who need it during half term in the Dymchurch and Burmarsh areas.
Atlantis Fish and Chips, Margate
The chip shop on the seafront has said they are "fully behind" Manchester United star Marcus Rashford in attempting to feed hungry children this half term.
They will be giving away free kids meals, including chicken nuggets, fish fingers, sausages and chips with a bottle of water.
And one restaurant in Folkestone, the Big Boys Fine Burger Co, is also offering youngsters free meals during the holiday, but went one step further and actually banned the area's MP from its venue after he failed to vote in favour for the scheme.
Nell's Cafe, Gravesend
The greasy spoon is no stranger to the big screen but it is hungry school kids that will be its main focus this half term.
They will be offering any child who lives in Gravesend and is eligible for free school meals, a packed lunch to takeaway.
It's asked those in need to bring their voucher or proof of entitlement in exchange.
M.I.B. Salvage Ltd, Ramsgate
This Thanet salvage and house clearance firm is helping the local community by distributing lunch bags to children.
Employee Yvonne Ellender said on Monday: "We went shopping yesterday and purchased enough pack lunch materials to prepare and distribute during the hal- term period to help those in need."
The business will be delivering the packs directly to those that request them.
Get in touch by calling 0800 1022515.
Independent Baker, Hythe
The Independent Baker is working in conjunction with the Salvation Army and other community organisations to offer free lunches.
It will run between Monday and Friday next week, 11am until 2pm and is offering a filled roll, a yoghurt, a sweet-treat and a drink to all children entitled to free school meals.
These need to be pre-ordered for the following day by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org by 5pm for collection between 11am and 11.30am the following day.
On Friday Medway Council announced with the support of the Towns' Citizens Advice Bureau it will feed 6,000 children this half term.
Kent County Council
The council u-turned yesterday (Monday) and announced it would be launching a helpline which families in need could call to claim a one off £15 food voucher.