School meals: Seven distribution centres set up by Tower Hamlets Council during half-term

Chilldren getting half-term school meals provided by Isle of Dogs businesses... even if the governme

Chilldren getting half-term school meals provided by Isle of Dogs businesses... even if the government won't pay up. Picture: Island Network - Credit: Island Network

Food distribution centres have been set up across the East End today for children to collect free meals during the half-term off school.

They are being run by Tower Hamlets Council today and tomorrow, Thursday and Friday, in Bethnal Green, Mile End, Stepney, Poplar and the Isle of Dogs.

The centres have been set up as the mayor and the authority condemns to government’s “shameful” decision to vote against extending free school meals through the school holidays.

“We have been working to tackle hunger this half term break,” a town hall spokesman said. “We’ve provided support throughout the week which includes ready-made meals for collection at seven locations today (October 29) and tomorrow.”

They centres are Mayfield House at 202 Cambridge Health Road and at Meath Gardens Children’s Centre in Smart Street, Bethnal Green, outside the People’s Palace in Mile End Road on the Queen Mary University campus, at the Harford Street Multicentre off Ben Jonson Road in Stepney, at Gayton House in Chiltern Road, Bromley-by-Bow, at Manorfield School in Wyvis Street, Poplar, and at Christ Church Manchester Road on the Isle of Dogs.

Volunteers from the Island Network are also handing out hot meals to vulnerable children today at the Quaterdeck shopping parade on the Ilse of Dogs between 2 and 4pm behind Thorne House and Skeggs House.

Mayor John Biggs said: “The government’s approach to supporting families during this crisis has been to leave them to sink-or-swim, refusing to continue free school meals over the holidays that’s leaving many children at risk of going hungry.

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“Their decision to vote against free school meals for vulnerable children was absolutely shameful.”

Opposition MPs had proposed continuing school meals in the holidays, including half-term and Christmas, forcing a Commons vote on October 21, but government benches voted against the measure.

Some 15,000 children are at risk of going hungry in the East End over the holidays, Tower Hamlets Council has told the East London Advertiser.

Cllr Danny Hassell, council member for children’s services, said: “It cannot be right that local authorities are left to plug the gaps that the Government leaves behind.”

The authority is picking up the tab for meals for all primary school pupils with significantly more children receiving them than they would normally under the government’s scheme.

More than 21,000 meals were given to children at council-funded holiday activity venues in the summer when the government was forced into a U-Turn to continue funding meals after a national campaign. This time, the government wasn’t budging.

Volunteers from the Island Network also stepped in this week to help vulnerable youngsters in Millwall and Cubitt Town, handing out means yesterday and today .

The network’s chair Maium Miah Talukdar told the Advertiser: “It’s a shame that MPs voted not to extend the free school meals scheme. We will provide meals for children who need them during the half-term.”

More than 300 hot meals were distributed on Tuesday at the Quaterdeck Shopping Parade, paid for by Asda, Canary Wharf group, One Housing and members of the public. The Island Network has delivered 11,600 food packs since the lockdown began.