10:26AM, Friday 30 October 2020
Community groups in Slough and Windsor have rallied behind footballer Marcus Rashford’s campaign to keep children fed during the school holidays.
Despite mounting public pressure, led by Manchester United footballer Rashford, 22, the Government refused to U-turn over its decision not to extend a voucher scheme for free school meals during half-term.
Charities, sports teams, restaurants and members of the public across the two towns reacted by working together to supply food for families in need.
In Windsor, the Driven Forward community fridge at Alexandra Gardens teamed up with the West Windsor Hub, Windsor Foodshare and Test Kitchen to supply packed lunches and ingredient kits to dozens of families.
Councillor Helen Price (TbF, Clewer & Dedworth East), who helped co-ordinate the initiative, said: “It just shows the wonderful community we are and people will just say ‘how can I help, what can I do?’.
“All it needs then is the co-ordination of all that willingness of spirit and it bodes well for other activities in the future.”
Volunteers from the Driven Forward community fridge and the West Windsor Hub
Carole Da Costa, who launched the West Windsor Hub in April to support people affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, said she was proud of the community’s response to the free school meals saga.
“We had so many volunteers that we couldn’t use them all due to social distancing,” said the Clewer & Dedworth East councillor.
Windsor Football Club also pitched in by opening up its Stag Meadow ground throughout the week to dish out lunchtime meals.
Volunteers from Slough Outreach set up a drop-off point at the Slough & Eton CofE Business & Enterprise College where people could donate food.
Charity founder Shin Dother praised the impact of Rashford’s campaign in bringing the topic of food poverty into the public limelight.
He said: “What Marcus Rashford has done is just raise up the profile and awareness, it's brilliant.
“We need someone like that just to wake people up.
“People want to do something, they just don’t know how to get involved.”
Windsor MP Adam Afriyie was one of 320 Conservative MPs to vote against extending the free school meals scheme.
Beaconsfield MP Joy Morrissey had no vote recorded while Slough MP Tan Dhesi voted in favour of making vouchers available during the half-term break.
Royal Borough councillor Stuart Carroll (Con, Boyn Hill), cabinet member for children’s services, urged the Government to ‘step up’ and fund vouchers for children in need.
In a letter to school headteachers, released this week, he advised schools to issue vouchers to any child in need and said the council will lobby the Government to reimburse the costs when schools return.
The Department for Education had not responded to a request for comment at the time of going to press.
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