How communities across Black Country and Staffordshire are stepping in to feed families this half term

Shops, charities and councils have rallied to provide half term meals, with the message: “No child will go hungry.”

Free food parcels are given out at The Davy Bakehouse Cafe, Darlaston
Free food parcels are given out at The Davy Bakehouse Cafe, Darlaston

A mix of organisations have volunteered their time and resources to send out food to families.

It comes after MPs voted against a Labour motion to back Manchester United and England star Marcus Rashford’s scheme to extend free school meals for all holidays until next summer.

Wolverhampton Council has already said it will pay for free school meals for 16,000 children this half term, Staffordshire County Council is promising a £15 voucher to the families of up to 18,000 children, which can be used in major supermarkets on food or essential supplies and Dudley Council will also provide emergency food vouchers.

Sandwell Council’s deputy leader Councillor Maria Crompton, said the council will assist families struggling to feed their children and that they are looking at future holidays to see what more will be needed to support their families.

Birmingham City Council is also offering further support but neighbouring Walsall Council is not.

Ian Brookfield, leader of Wolverhampton Council, helps deliver food parcels

Meanwhile charities have said they will step up to help those in need - and pubs, bars, cafes and more are offering to help feed children too.

The Davy Bakehouse Cafe in Darlaston is offering free packed lunches for local children.

Soraya Davy, owner, said: “I worked out we could budget to feed 12 children a day but when I spread the word we had donations of more than £500, now we can provide more than 100 packed lunches a day. We’re also donating a Cup-a-Soup so they can go to bed with something.”

The Britannia Sports Bar in Stourbridge is offering children a hot meal every day until Friday this half term being served from 3.30pm to 4pm when the bar will be closed.

Lisa Sutherland, from the bar, said: “My own struggles are the reason I’m doing this. I had my lad when I was 16 and when I started working when he was three it was then that I struggled, not when I was on benefits. I think there are people who need support, lots of people are losing their jobs, lots are furloughed, the whole country is on its knees.

"We’ve got 33 booked in so far throughout the week. It’s beautiful that the community is helping each other out, I’ve never been prouder of the community.”

Lisa Sutherland of The Britannia Sports Bar, which is offering free hot meals

Dr Eamers’ Distillery Bar in Brierley Hill will be offering free lunches for children when they open from Thursday to Sunday this week.

Jordan Lunn, owner, said: “We’ve only opened four days a week since Covid, so we’ll be offering it on those days, ideally we’d do it every day but every little helps.

"People can just turn up, no purchase necessary, we’re not doing it to drive business, just to help. We started producing hand santisier over lockdown and for every one we produce we donate one. We’re always trying to do our best to help.”

The Backyard Cafe in Kingswinford is offering free packed lunches from Wednesday to Sunday. A post on the cafe’s Facebook page says: “No child should ever go hungry! There is no debate. From Wednesday 28th October until Sunday 1st November we will provide any children that need it a free packed lunch. All we ask is that you notify us by email at thebackyardcafe@outlook.com by 2pm the day before.”

Soraya Davy, owner of The Davy Bakehouse Cafe

Jess McKean, who runs The Shiny Fork in Hednesford, is also providing free meals for children during half term. The 32-year-old said in the past she was faced with the struggles of feeding her four young children –- and now wants to help anyone else in that situation.

Jess said: “All they need to do is message us via our Facebook page or ring the cafe, tell us how many they need and we can arrange it all. We are running it everyday during half term – if it turns out to be a success we will continue it every half term.

“We have had a lot of families contact us already on the first day – and I don’t know if that is a bad or good thing. I am glad that they have come to us for help but the amount of people who have come to us is alarming. If we can carry this on we will do it for as long as we can.

"I have four children myself, all under the age of eight, and it was not so long ago where I was in a position where I could not feed my children and there was no one to help me. I am fortunate that I am not in that position anymore - and I will do anything to help others in that situation."

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Nutmeg in Wolverhampton is offering free lunches for children who would otherwise go without until Friday. It can be collected between 11am and 2.30pm but needs to be booked.

And Sandwell College, together with Cadbury College Sixth Form and Central Saint Michael’s Sixth Form College, has announced that it will be providing free school meals vouchers for hundreds of its students this October half term and over the Christmas break. All learners who are eligible for free school meals will be provided with a supermarket voucher worth £15.

Graham Pennington, principal at Sandwell College, said: “We believe it is even more important that we continue this support during October half term and over the Christmas break, when students will be away from their college and learning environment and, in some cases, are having to look after themselves at home, with limited financial means."

St Thomas’s Community Association has stepped up to provide free packed lunches to children in Dudley during half term. The association says it felt strongly that something needed to be done quickly to support vulnerable families and children in the borough.

The association was set up last year and has recently taken over the Sledmere Centre. A project to help feed vulnerable families in the area is in the pipeline and will be up and running soon.

On behalf of the association, Councillor Shaukat Ali said: “We are here to help support our local community.

“We do not want our children to go hungry as families are already struggling and have been under extreme pressure over the past eight months. A couple of local businesses have also approached us to help us in our efforts and we thank them.”

Foundation is a 'Godsend'

About 100 families have come to the Elias Mattu Foundation for help this half term.

The foundation in Penn Fields, Wolverhampton, set up by Councillor Asha Mattu and named after her late husband and former mayor Elias Mattu, delivers to almost 500 people each week.

A resident who receives food parcels from the foundation said the help had been a “Godsend”.

Helping to feed families in need at the Elias Mattu Foundation, Wolverhampton

She said: "They don't just help out with food parcels, but have supported me with my children, my mental health and my housing situation.

"Over half term, they'll be helping out with food parcels and they'll continue to support me with that as I'm on benefits and have three young children.

"I really do feel they are doing more than the government at the moment and it's a shame they have to do that as children shouldn't go without food and when you're on universal credit, your money doesn't last you the whole month, so you end up struggling.

"My kids absolutely love the foundation and Manj from the foundation will always provide some treats for them, which is great as it's the little things which matter most, and there's always food for them."

Councillor Mattu said: "We've had in the region of 100 families come to us asking for help over half-term and the phones are still ringing and emails still coming in, so the number is set to increase.

"I think it's quite moving that so many people are looking to come to us like this and need help. We've just received a call from a refuge centre as they've got families who need food over this break as well, so there's a lot of people in need out there."

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