‘Heroes of the high street’ offering meals for children during half term

PUBLISHED: 08:00 28 October 2020

Chris Fletcher, of the Gingerbread House and Emma Barker of Granny Gothards. Picture: Fran Mcelhone

Chris Fletcher, of the Gingerbread House and Emma Barker of Granny Gothards. Picture: Fran Mcelhone


Kind-hearted small businesses in Exmouth and Budleigh Salterton have been offering “free school meals” this half term “because the government isn’t”.

Richard and Nikki Jackson of Brunch, Lunch and Munch in Exmouth. Picture: Richard JacksonRichard and Nikki Jackson of Brunch, Lunch and Munch in Exmouth. Picture: Richard Jackson

In Exmouth, Brunch, Lunch & Munch Café on Albion Street has been offering free sausage rolls and drinks during half term.

And in Budleigh Salterton, The Gingerbread House café, Granny Gothards ice cream parlour and Wesley’s, a new café and community space at the Temple Methodist Church, in Budleigh Salterton have been offering free lunches.

Their generosity was sparked after the government voted against extending the free school meals voucher scheme throughout the holiday. The vouchers are available to parents whose income falls below a certain threshold during term time only, but the scheme was continued throughout the summer holidays under a £120m ‘Covid summer food fund’, called for by Manchester United footballer Marcus Rashford.

But this October, the Labour motion, which called for free school meals to be offered over the school holidays until Easter 2021, was rejected by 322 votes to 261. The government said it was already supporting low-income families through the welfare system.

Co-owner of The Gingerbread House, Chris Fletcher, said eligible families just need to turn up and ask. The café is offering a free takeaway lunch which will include a sandwich, a packet of crisps, a piece of fruit and a juice.

He explained that being a parent made him and his partner want to help and he hopes other businesses will be inspired to follow suit. “I just thought, if I don’t do something, who will? The government isn’t. So what’s a few hundred quid when you know you’re helping children who may otherwise be going hungry.

“This is aimed at those people who are desperate,” he added. “So I just thought, if people are brave enough to ask, they must be in need, so I won’t be asking for a letter proving their eligibility. It’s reliant upon honesty.

“I’ll sleep better at night knowing I’ve done something to help.”

Emma Barker, who runs Granny Gothards on the High Street, will be offering soup and sandwiches “and a coffee for mum”. “Children are a huge part of our business and they bring us so much joy coming in,” she said. “No one should be going hungry in one of the richest countries in the world. So when higher up fail to do the right thing, it falls to the community, and Budleigh is a community I’m proud to be part of.”

Emma too, will be absorbing the cost herself. She added: “What’s a few loaves of bread and block of cheese when you can make sure a child doesn’t go hungry?”

The morning after Brunch, Lunch & Munch Café owners, Richard and Nicola Jackson, posted their offer of sausage rolls on their Facebook page, people were coming in with donations. “We were mortified when we saw the government’s decision not to provide meals through the holidays,” said Richard. “I grew up on free school meals as a kid, so I know how important to parents it is, but also as a child, when there isn’t much in the cupboards at home, to know you’re going to get a meal at school is the highlight of your day.

“The response has been overwhelming, people have come in to donate, it’s moved my wife to tears. It’s not much for us, but it means a lot to people in genuine need.”

When they heard about what their customer was doing, the café’s suppliers SJB Foods offered to donate too.

Richard added: “It’s tough times, and tough times ahead, I just hope people won’t be shy to come in and ask.

“All we ask is adults when coming to the cafe to remember to wear a mask, where they can order a freshly baked sausage Roll, and a drink for every child they have.”

The duo also provided the lunches for community organisation Exmouth Friends In Need, which delivered packed lunches to eligible families during the week.

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