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World Offers of free food to needy English children put government in awkward spot

18:20  26 october  2020
18:20  26 october  2020 Source:   reuters.com

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a tray of food on a table: Men Unite and Hanley Town Football Club provide free meals to children and families, in Stoke-on-Trent © Reuters/CARL RECINE Men Unite and Hanley Town Football Club provide free meals to children and families, in Stoke-on-Trent

LONDON (Reuters) - Businesses and charities across England offered free meals for children on Monday, in a public relations fiasco for the Conservative government which voted last week not to provide food vouchers for poor families during a school holiday.

Some 1.3 million children are eligible for free lunches at schools in England. Following a campaign by a soccer star to provide extra support during the coronavirus crisis, the government gave their families food vouchers for the summer school holiday. But last week it voted not to do the same during a weeklong school break at the end of October.

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a person standing in front of a store: Men Unite and Hanley Town Football Club provide free meals to children and families, in Stoke-on-Trent © Reuters/CARL RECINE Men Unite and Hanley Town Football Club provide free meals to children and families, in Stoke-on-Trent

Family-run cafes, fish and chip shops, bakeries, pubs, football clubs, hotels and a Sikh temple are among businesses, charities and places of worship that have since responded by announcing plans to give away meals.

A chef from the St Giles Trust Brewbird cafe, prepares hot food packages for people in need of free school meals, in London © Reuters/PETER NICHOLLS A chef from the St Giles Trust Brewbird cafe, prepares hot food packages for people in need of free school meals, in London

"We haven't got much money but we are not prepared to stand back and worry about children not getting a meal over half-term," said the Oceans of Fun soft play centre in the city of Nottingham, offering eligible children free hot or cold meals.

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Marcus Rashford, a 22-year-old Manchester United soccer forward who has spoken of sometimes going hungry as a child, has spearheaded the campaign.

a person cutting food on a table: A chef from the St Giles Trust Brewbird cafe, prepares hot food packages for people in need of free school meals, in London © Reuters/PETER NICHOLLS A chef from the St Giles Trust Brewbird cafe, prepares hot food packages for people in need of free school meals, in London

"Those who have rallied around our communities, please continue to do so, you are the real pride of Britain," he said, using his Twitter feed to publicise dozens of offers of free food. A petition he launched on Oct. 15 to end child food poverty in Britain had attracted close to 900,000 signatures.

Men Unite and Hanley Town Football Club provide free meals to children and families, in Stoke-on-Trent © Reuters/CARL RECINE Men Unite and Hanley Town Football Club provide free meals to children and families, in Stoke-on-Trent

Prime Minister Boris Johnson defended the government, saying it was providing support through other means such as an increase in welfare benefits and funding for local goverments.

"We will do everything in our power to make sure that no kid, no child goes hungry this winter during the holidays," Johnson said, describing Rashford's efforts as "terrific".

"The debate is how do you deal with it," Johnson said.

Under pressure from angry constituents, several Conservative lawmakers have broken ranks and called for a rethink.

(Additional reporting by Kate Holton)

Righties Wilmer Font, Artie Lewicki sign with KBO's SK Wyverns .
SK Wyverns of the Korea Baseball Organization announced the signings of right-handers Wilmer Font and Artie Lewicki to one-year contracts.Font chose free agency after being outrighted off the Blue Jays’ 40-man roster at the end of the season.  The 30-year-old had a rough time over 16 1/3 innings in 2020, posting a 9.92 ERA and nine walks over that limited sample size.  Font has a 5.54 ERA in 144 2/3 innings since the start of the 2018 season, but some inconsistency was perhaps inevitable since Font suited up for five different organizations in 2018-19.

usr: 3
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