A MAJOR operation has been under way all this week to ensure 717 Redditch children in receipt of free school meals can have food vouchers over half term.
Even as the ‘Marcus Rashford’ Opposition Motion to extend free school meals over the one week break was being voted down by the ruling Conservatives by 322 votes to 261 – Redditch MP Rachel Maclean and Stratford’s Nadhim Zahawi voting with the government – efforts to get the vouchers out to the town’s youngsters were being worked out.
In parts of Redditch one in three children rely on free school dinners for nourishment and would have gone hungry without them.
The operation has brought together Redditch Borough Council, the community voluntary group Redditch East Stronger together (REST) and Morrisons to distribute the vouchers, which are for food only, to the children affected in Woodrow, Matchborough, Winyates and Church Hill.
Liz Williams of REST said: “I had no idea we had so many children on free school meals, but Redditch Borough Council has given us a fantastic opportunity to fight against child poverty.
“Bev Allington, community champion at Morrisons has been fantastic and so have the schools and together we are targeting the most vulnerable.”
The initiative will cost £7,170 – £10 for each child, and such is the tight timeframe the vouchers will be distributed after half term.
The money is part of a grant from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and is being distributed by Redditch Borough Council.
The council has since poured the money into a variety of good causes, including Redditch Emergency Network and Act on Energy and is currently in talks with a further good cause for the lion’s share of the cash.
Bev Allington of supermarket giant Morrisons said: “We are happy to help and support our local community. All across the country it is getting worse and we have all got to do our bit to help.”