Council leader Phélim Mac Cafferty has urged families struggling to put food on the table over half term to reach out to the city’s covid hub for help – but has stopped short of a pledge to cover the voucher scheme.
Green Councillor Mac Cafferty was responding to the campaign led by footballer Marcus Rashford MBE for free school meals vouchers to be made available to low income families over half term, as they were over the summer holidays.
This week, Conservative MPs voted against the proposal, and today a clutch of London boroughs said they would step in to fund it themselves.
A petition set up by former Labour councillor Caroline Penn has been signed by hundreds of people, and meanwhile several venues have pledged their own support.
This afternoon, Councillor Mac Cafferty said help was available through the city’s existing covid help hub, as well as the Brighton and Hove Food Partnership and Chomp, a scheme already helping low-income families with food provision.
He said: “It is a disgrace that in 2020 and in the fifth richest country on the planet, child hunger exists.
“We are doing everything we can to help to provide essential supplies for families who are struggling to feed their children.
“The city council’s hub will be working throughout the half term from 10am to 4.30pm, Monday to Friday of next week. This will be helping families needing emergency help with food, energy bills and other essentials.
“We are working with dedicated partners, especially the Food Partnership, to make food parcel deliveries to families, which is particularly needed given the constraints of the covid-19 pandemic on normal services.
“We can be deeply thankful to all those in our city, including fantastic community organisations, who are working year round to provide food to those in need. The council has provided funding to these services, including throughout the pandemic.
“If you need support, please get in touch with one of the teams. We are here to help if we can.”
Meanwhile, the Labour group called on the council to set up a fund to co-ordinate food vouchers.
In a letter to the Green administration, Councillor John Allcock, the Labour education spokesman, said: “We call upon the administration to provide emergency funding and to work with our well-established food partnership and stakeholders, head teachers and governors to set up a fund to co-ordinate the provision of food vouchers for all children who receive free schools meals throughout the autumn half term and Christmas holiday period.
“We are already being approached with offers of donations from individuals and organisations who want to help and it’s vital that this energy is harnessed.
“Please let me know how we can help and where we can direct offers of food and funding.”
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