BORIS Johnson has defended his decision not to extend free school meals for children in England over October half-term, while Bradford organisations continue to offer their support to young people in growing numbers.
The government provided free school meals to eligible children during the Easter holidays this year and, after a campaign by Manchester United's Marcus Rashford, did the same over the summer holidays.
But Naz Shah, Labour MP for Bradford West, criticised the government for not extending the scheme for the October holidays, claiming it has denied more than 165,000 free meals to children in her constituency, while Bradford Council leader Susan Hinchcliffe said the government's decision was "shocking and unforgivable".
Boris Johnson said: “We don’t want to see children going hungry this winter, this Christmas, certainly not as a result of any inattention by this government - and you are not going to see that.
“I haven’t spoken to Marcus since June, but what he is doing is terrific.
"We will do everything in our power to make sure no child goes hungry this winter during the holidays, that’s obviously something we care about very much", adding he was "very proud" of the support the government has given thus far.
Following the government's decision not to extend the scheme, Bradford Council will donate £20,000 to local food banks and work with community groups to provide over 10,000 meals to impoverished families, while Bradford's Volunteering Interfaith Programme (VIP) has also teamed up with local faith groups, including Masjid Quba in Manningham, to give free meals to children.
Javed Bashir, VIP Founder, said: "Without help and support, parents who are economically vulnerable may find themselves with debt and children in hunger. We are asking local communities to get involved in helping needy families and children."
Mohammed Zubair, of Masjid Quba, said: "It's an honour to be part of VIP’s initiative to help needy people. It's our duty to help children from poor and distressed families."
Bradford City’s Community Foundation is also aiming to provide over 750 free meals to children in the district this week.
The Hub - below the Valley Parade club shop - is open from 11.30am to 1.30pm until 30 October, serving meals to children in need. The club will work with Bradford Council, which has provided the Community Foundation with the funding to make this possible.
Qasim Akhtar, Bradford City Community Foundation’s business development officer, said: “People have been very grateful for the meals. They are pleased that it’s their local football club is getting involved.
“We have been out delivering meals too. It’s been fantastic to help people and we have also publicised it in the district’s schools as well.”
Those who require food can text their name to 07462 248610 or e-mail [email protected] with details on the days they would like to collect a meal and how many they require.
Vibes Deli, on Tong Street, is also giving away food to children who need it - children can collect their food from the shop, but must be accompanied by an adult, every weekday this week, between 4pm and 10pm.