A LUNCH club has been set up to feed the children of Gillingham and the surrounding area, following the government’s refusal to extend free school meals during the October half term break.

Inspired by Manchester United footballer Marcus Rashford, who has been at the forefront of the campaign against child food poverty and called on the public to protect the most vulnerable children during the holidays, eateries up and down the country started to provide this free service.

Based in Gillingham, Amanda and Lucy Boe and Hugo Purdue have stepped up to offer packed lunches, with an assortment of sandwiches and snacks available.

Between 70 and 100 meals are now being prepped each day, with around 30 volunteers involved.

“Marcus Rashford is totally just in his actions, to have children unable to feed themselves due to the pandemic, that was unplanned, and then have government refuse feeding - this is just the right thing to do,” said Hugo, who has been dealing with the administrative side of the scheme.

He added: “People are just doing the best they can but we just want to help the community, it’s not a political movement we’re just providing food to those who need it.

“Lucy and Amanda were the real brains behind this but we just wanted to do our bit. Obviously we are limited in what we can do but we thought this was something that could work, it became clear that those families that are at a bit of a disadvantage really needed this.”

Following the success of the scheme so far, the trio hopes the lunch club can run over future half term breaks, if it becomes a registered charity.

Hugo, who works as a security operative alongside assisting with the scheme, added: “There has been the usual teething problems, to do mostly with deliveries or missed addresses but all in all it has been a success.

“People keep offering us cash and we’re reticent about that as it means we’re using personal accounts, but it shows the amazing community we are in and our spirit.”

Any leftover food from this week will be donated to participating families.

All three MPs in the Salisbury and district area - John Glen, Danny Kruger and Desmond Swayne - voted against extending the free school meals scheme, and MP for north Dorset Simon Hoare abstained from voting.

For more information or to get in touch with the lunch club team visit the lunch club on Facebook or email covertsoup@yahoo.co.uk