‘It’s the right thing to do’ - kind-hearted Suffolk residents offer free school meals

The owners of the Queen's Head pub in Lower Layham are offering free school lunches to those in need. Left to right...

The owners of the Queen's Head pub in Lower Layham are offering free school lunches to those in need. Left to right, Stephen, Tanith and Karni Laing. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN - Credit: Archant

More Suffolk pubs and charities have stepped up to provide children with free lunches after the government opted against extending the free school meal voucher scheme through the half-term break.

The family have stepped up after the government opted against extending the free school meal voucher scheme Picture...

The family have stepped up after the government opted against extending the free school meal voucher scheme Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN - Credit: Archant

On Wednesday, a Labour motion to ensure the voucher scheme was extended during school holidays through to next Easter was defeated by the Conservative government in a parliamentary vote.

Stephen Laing, who manages the Queen’s Head pub in Lower Layham with his wife Tanith, said it was “disappointing” that the government opted against extending the free school meal voucher scheme.

In response, the pub will be offering free packed lunches to children who normally have free school meals from Monday to Friday next week.

Parents and carers will be asked to call the pub in advance before collecting their child’s meal from Mr and Mrs Laing’s daughter, Karni.

Staff at St Alban's Catholic High School in Ipswich have clubbed together to buy Tesco vouchers for students Picture...

Staff at St Alban's Catholic High School in Ipswich have clubbed together to buy Tesco vouchers for students Picture: SIMON PARKER

Mr Laing said: “We’re a community pub and the hub of the village.

MORE: Suffolk MPs back government to reject free school meals extension

“This is the right thing to do. It’s disappointing that the government don’t feel they can facilitate kids through the break.

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“It’s not the children’s life choices that have put them in that position.”

Staff at St Alban’s Catholic High School in Ipswich have also stepped up to provide for children next week.

StART, a charity consisting of many staff members, have forked out a total of £1,700 to pay for Tesco vouchers worth £15 for each of their students.

Matt Baker, the school’s headteacher, praised teacher Mark Pattinson, who instigated the scheme, for his efforts in ensuring students can be fed during the holiday.

Mr Baker said: “We just felt that the situation has not got any better. Funds are very tight at the moment.

“We are over the moon and so grateful. It’s an incredible gesture and so needed.”

The Raven in Ipswich is another pub that has gone the extra mile to keep youngsters fed over half-term.

Staff have clubbed together to provide free freshly-made packed lunches for children, which can be collected between noon and 1pm next Monday to Friday after placing an order.

The pub said on Facebook: “With the half-term beginning we know some families will be struggling, especially in these uncertain times.”

MORE: ‘Not a long-term solution’ - MP defends vote against free school meal extension

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