Oldham children to get free meals this half term

Oldham Council is supporting inspirational footballer Marcus Rashford's campaign and has pledged to ensure hundreds of children in the borough don't go hungry this half-term. 

The Labour council has said it will step in to "fill the gap" after Tory MPs rejected extending free lunch vouchers for low-income families to the school holidays earlier this week. 

Manchester United and England footballer Rashford, who forced a government U-turn on free school meal vouchers for eligible pupils over the summer holidays, is keeping pressure on the government to go further, retweeting details of cafes and restaurants who have offered to provide meals during the holidays.

A range of fun events - many of them virtual - had already been planned across Oldham for bored youngsters from Monday (25 October) and now food will be provided for those who need it the most.

For example, 20 families in South Chadderton will receive food each day to include a breakfast pack, lunch pack and tea pack plus a cooking live session during the week via a virtual ‘super hero’ academy.

Sixty families in Oldham will take part in a fun week of activities where one of the sessions each day will be a cooking class where the food ingredients have been provided by the council.

Vulnerable youngsters attending a multi-sport camp at Hathershaw College will each receive a free packed lunch each day.

And families needing food support and already on the radar of the council's five district teams will be supported - notably in Failsworth and Royton.

The council says it had already prepared its social workers to hand out emergency food vouchers for use at local foodbanks and are also trialling a new scheme with the COOP to hand out food vouchers to children in need.

And if people are in need of help and support, the council runs an emergency helpline. Details can be found at https://www.oldham.gov.uk/cvhelpline

Councillor Arooj ShahOldham Council’s Deputy Leader with responsibility for tackling poverty in Oldham, said: “The impact of Coronavirus has not just been on people’s health but also their job position and finances and we are concerned there will be even more children going hungry this half term in Oldham.

“That is completely unacceptable and we have decided to step in to fill the financial gap left pitifully by central Government and to make sure those most in need get basic meals.

“A light has been shone on this vitally important subject by the Manchester United footballer Marcus Rashford and we in Oldham will step up and play our part in these difficult financial times for us all.

“We know a number of organisations and businesses are also looking to help and we thank them for schemes they are involved in and we would call on others to think of doing something similar.

“We will also keep the pressure on Central Government to ensure that the free school meals in holiday time campaign is not forgotten and we must ensure our most vulnerable are supported to get a basic meal.”

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