Businesses and organisations across Oxfordshire are rallying this week to offer free food to families who are struggling during half term, and Oxford City Council has pledged that no child will go hungry.

Families in hardship, particularly those with children receiving Free School Meals, will be able to receive food vouchers of up to £15 per child for the week.

The problem arose when the Government decided not to extend the Free School Meals provision to cover half term.

Councillor Marie Tidball, Cabinet Member for Supporting Local Communities, said the council is working with partners to try to ensure that no child in the city goes hungry during half term.

“Almost 3,000 children in Oxford qualify for Free School Meals – children who are already experiencing a huge amount of stress and widening inequality as a result of the pandemic – and we see it as our moral duty to help them. But our finances are already under significant pressure and covering the Government’s Free School Meals programme during half term and the Christmas holidays could cost up to £135,000,” she said.

She added: “It is fantastic that so many community groups, charities and businesses in Oxford have stepped up to help tackle food poverty for children in the city. However, at a time when so many children and families are facing poverty and inequality, we need government to show leadership and ensure that no child in our country goes hungry at this difficult time.”

Food banks and larders are operating across the city – including Barton, Blackbird Leys, Cowley and Rose Hill – will help provide food to families during half term and beyond.

Food larders and banks: The following organisations are providing free meals for children in Oxford during half term:

·       Oxford Mutual Aid and partners are providing free meals today between 1pm and 3pm at Templar’s Square Shopping Centre and between 4pm and 6pm at The Leys Pools and Leisure Centre

·       Waste2Taste Café at Ark-T Centre is providing healthy meals to re-heat at home tomorrow (27 October) and on Wednesday (28 October) Read more about Waste2Taste here

·       Florence Park Community Centre is delivering free lunch meals for children and families on Friday (30 October)

Meanwhile, the following community larders will also be open this week:

·       Blackbird Leys Community Larder is open between 3pm and 5pm on Wednesdays at Blackbird Leys Community Centre

·       Rose Hill Community Larder is open between 2pm and 4pm on Tuesdays at Rose Hill Community Centre

·       Barton Community Cupboard is open from 12.30pm on Mondays, Tuesdays and Fridays at Barton Neighbourhood Centre

Rose Hill Junior Youth Club, based at Rose Hill Community Centre, also provides a cooked meal – alongside an after school club – for children on Wednesdays and Thursdays.

Businesses across the county are also supporting the initiative, including international catering company Thomas Franks based in Hook Norton, whose Thomas Franks Feeding Communities is helping to prevent local schoolchildren going hungry this half term. Read more about Thomas Franks here. And donate at the top of the page on their banner.

Emma Bothwell, Chair of The Thomas Franks Foundation said: “We are working hard to provide nutritious meals for those who most need our support at this time. Feeding children and young adults in difficult situations and food poverty is our priority.”

Thomas Franks are delivering free lunches all week as part of their campaign to end food poverty

*The Theatre Chipping Norton is providing free packed lunches for children during half term. Each pack will contain a sandwich, crisps, fruit and a drink and will be available to collect between 11.30am and 1pm until Friday from the Theatre Bar on Spring Street. Adults must accompany children. Anyone who needs a free packed lunch should email producer@chippingnortontheatre.com

*The Black Horse at Standlake is offering a free lunch to children who are missing out on their school lunches this week. Families should email info@theblackhorsestandlake.com and staff will make arrangements for meals to be collected at an agreed date and time.

Martin Sherriff outside The Black Horse in Standlake

*Mission Burrito is providing free hot lunches until Saturday for anyone who is struggling to feed their children this half term. Call in between 11 am and 1pm.

For a full list of services providing free or subsidised food within Oxford visit: foodmap.goodfoodoxford.org

If you are struggling to feed your children during half term, please contact the City Council by calling 01865 249811.

SARAH EDWARDS

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