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Struggling to feed kids this half term? Restaurants, cafes and councils offer free food to kids in need after Marcus Rashford campaign – where to find it

Struggling to feed kids this half term? Restaurants, cafes and councils offer free food to kids in need after Marcus Rashford campaign – where to find it

Cafes, pubs, restaurants and councils across England are offering free meals to children in need over the October half-term, following a high-profile campaign started by the footballer Marcus Rashford. 

Free school meals are provided in termtime to the children of parents who are on a range of benefits or meet certain other criteria – and that continues to be the case. But Rashford has been campaigning for free meals to be provided for the same children in England during the school holidays too, and earlier this year he successfully persuaded the Government to extend the free meals scheme over the summer holidays.

However, earlier this week MPs voted not to extend the free school meals scheme in England so that it covers the school holidays until Easter 2021.

In response, many eateries – as well as local councils – have said that they will provide meals for children who need them free of charge during the October half-term, and in some cases beyond.

IMPORTANT: We've not seen any of the businesses offering free meals to kids in need say they'll ask for proof of eligibility for free school meals. But please note, they're generally offering the food for those who usually get free school meals during term time, so you should only take them if you need them or you'll be depriving others.

For full help on cutting the cost of buying food, see our How to get free (or cheap) food guide and Supermarket Shopping Tips.

How do I find free food for kids in need?

Many offers of free food have been made in the past couple of days, and often they come from small independent restaurants or cafes, so there's no one easy way to check. But here's what to try:

  • Scour local social media. Restaurants are often sharing details locally, so look at local Facebook groups and the local press for who may be taking part in your area – or check restaurants' social media accounts directly.

  • Check Marcus Rashford's Twitter feed. In the last 24 hours, Rashford has been publicising many of those who've come forward via his Twitter account.

  • Use our list below – though it's just a snapshot. We've listed some of those we've spotted offering free food below, with a few details about what they've said they'll offer (thought this could always change, so you'll need to check). Some are those highlighted by Rashford – others are those we've seen on social media or which have been flagged by MoneySavers. It's far from an exhaustive list of who's taking part though. We'll be updating this story, so let us know who else is doing this at news@moneysavingexpert.com.

Businesses we've found are offering free food to kids in need

Loads of pubs, cafes and restaurants are offering free food – though exactly what they're offering and how you get it varies, so you'll need to check, though as we say above, only do it if you've kids in need.

Some are simply providing free food, often takeaways, to those who turn up, while others ask you to contact them in advance. In some cases, availability is limited to a set number of meals – other restaurants have said they will give every child who needs one a free meal.

Here's a list of some of the pubs, cafes, restaurants and other businesses that we've seen offering free food so far:

North of England

  • Astoria Bar, Manchester – free meal from kids' menu, Mon 26 Oct-Fri 30 Oct, 9am-3pm 
  • Aubergine Cafe, Wirral – free takeaway sandwich, Mon 26 Oct-Fri 30 Oct
  • Babul's, Barnard Castle – free chicken & veg meal (100 avail a day), for next 15 days, 4pm-5pm
  • Baker's Tea Room, Bolton – free grab bags during half-term, from 12pm
  • Berry's Tea Room, Brampton – free packed lunch in half-term
  • Bowers Mill Cafe, Barkisland – free meals in half-term
  • Foundation 92, Salford – free meals in half-term
  • Jo's Place, Wilmslow – free breakfast or lunch sandwich, Mon 26 Oct-Fri 30 Oct, 8am-2pm
  • Khandoker, Didsbury – free hot meal
  • Laurences, Blyth – free meal collected or delivered
  • Minikin Paint a Pot Art Cafe, Manchester – free hot baked potato with beans, fruit, snack & drink
  • Mumtaz, Leeds – free biriyani Sat 24 Oct-Sun 1 Nov (except Mon) 5pm-6pm
  • Page's Bakery, Tow Low – free lunches Mon 26 Oct-Fri 30 Oct
  • Ruddi's Retreat, Huddersfield – free meals during half-term
  • Shopping City, Runcorn – free pack lunches during half-term
  • Taste Sandwich Bar, Liverpool – free packed lunches in half-term
  • The Courtyard, Wigan – free kids' meal, Tue 27 Oct-Sat 31 Oct, 10am-4.15pm
  • The Greystones, Sheffield – free school meals during half-term
  • The Handsworth Inn, Sheffield – free packed lunch, Mon 26 Oct, Wed 28 Oct and Fri 30 Oct
  • The Hawthorne, Warrington – free packed lunch from Fri 23 Oct until school hols end, 1pm-3pm
  • The Funhouse, Whitehaven – free child's lunchbox
  • The Marmalade Hut, Rotherham – free sandwich for children under 16 in half-term
  • The Sandwich Shop, Rotherham – free sandwich & fruit in half-term
  • The Vale Cafe, Rothbury – free meals for those on free school meals at local schools
  • The Village Fish Bar, Bamber Bridge – free meal Tue 27 Oct-Fri 30 Oct 11.30am-1.30pm
  • The Watering Can, Liverpool – free takeaway packed lunch, Mon 26 Oct-Fri 30 Oct
  • Top Nosh, Hexham – free sandwich, drink, fruit & crisps, Mon 26 Oct-Fri 30 Oct
  • Tranmere Rovers, Birkenhead – available to all free school meal pupils at Devonshire Park School 
  • Whitley Bait Sandwich and Coffee Bar, Whitley Bay – free packed lunch

Midlands

South of England

  • Belluno Italian Restaurant, Bideford – free meals Mon 26 Oct-Fri 30 Oct, 12pm-2pm 
  • Big Smoke Brew Co, Surbiton, Kingston, Hammersmith, Weybridge, Chichester, Wokingham – 1,000 free meals to give away Mon 26 Oct-Fri 30 Oct, 9am-9pm
  • Bucks Students' Union, High Wycombe – free hot meals Mon 26 Oct-Fri 30 Oct, 12pm-2pm
  • Chatham Town FC, Chatham – free meals from Mon 26 Oct-Sun 2 Nov
  • Castle Beach, Falmouth – free lunch bags for those who normally get free school meals
  • Count House Cafe, Penzance – free meals for free school meal pupils at Pendeen School over half-term
  • El Bar De Tapas, Stevenage – free meals Mon 26 Oct-Fri 30 Oct, 11am-12pm 
  • Forest Green Rovers, Nailsworth – free meals during half-term
  • Hastings United FC, Hastings – free lunches Friday 30 Oct between 12-2pm
  • Jenny's, Brackley – free meals for children who'd normally get them – Mon 26 Oct-Fri 30 Oct, 11am-1pm
  • Kurts Brasserie, Southampton – free hot meals to any child from 12pm-2.30pm
  • La Rondine, Bedford – free pasta Mon 26 Oct-Fri 30 Oct 12pm-1pm 
  • New Bombay Restaurant, Bedford – free meals Mon 26 Oct-Thu 30 Oct 12pm-2pm
  • Oliver's, Haslemere – free lunch Mon 26 Oct-Fri 30 Oct, 2pm-4pm
  • Pavilion Street Kitchen, Newquay – free meal and hot drink during half-term if ordered 24hrs in advance
  • Royal & Derngate, Northampton – free lunch bag Mon 26 Oct-Fri 30 Oct, 11.30am-12.30pm
  • Seaford Town FC, Seaford – free lunches to children on free school meals over half-term
  • Swiss Cottage Cafe, Ilfracombe – free packed lunch Mon 26 Oct-Fri 30 Oct
  • The Art House, Eastbourne – free packed lunch during half-term
  • Theo's Cafe and Grill, Barnet – free lunches Mon 26 Oct-Fri 30 Oct 2pm-4pm 
  • Vutie Beets, Letchworth Garden City – free meals Mon 26 Oct-Fri 30 Oct 12pm-2pm
  • Willow Tree Nursery, Clacton – 100 free packed lunches a day during half-term
  • Whisper, Kew – meals over half-term and Xmas for pupils who need it at Darell School

In addition to the above, nationwide chain Prezzo says that until Friday this week (30 October), free lunch boxes can be picked up at any of its open branches between 11.30am and 12pm.

Papa Johns also says says children can pick up free meals between 2pm and 4pm at participating branches in London.

Which councils are offering free school meals to kids in need during half-term?

Multiple English local authorities have also announced they will fund and provide free school meals to children during the October half-term. These are some of those we've seen with a few details – but to check exactly what's on offer and if you're eligible, contact your local council:

  • Ashfield says it will refund school meals over half-term.
  • Birmingham City says it will fund children who receive free school meals over this half-term.
  • Bradford says it plans to help feed thousands of disadvantaged children during the half-term school holiday
  • Brent says it will provide a £15 food voucher to parents of eligible children this half-term.
  • Bristol says it is funding meals for children who need them during the school holidays
  • Camden says it will provide supermarket vouchers to Camden families who can least afford to buy food.
  • Doncaster – Mayor Ros Jones said on local radio the council will provide free meals over the school holidays.
  • Enfield says it will be extending its free school meals programme over half-term.
  • Essex is working with ActiveEssex to extend its 'Holiday Hunger Programme'. This will see more than 1,000 children provided with free activities and food.
  • Greater Manchester will provide 1,000 Co-op meal deal vouchers to young people during half-term.
  • Greenwich is serving meals at various locations between 26-30 October as part of Mobile Kitchens initiative.
  • Hackney will provide vouchers for children who receive free school meals.
  • Halton says anyone who is entitled to free school meals and wants one next week will get one.
  • Hammersmith and Fulham will give every pupil in need free meal vouchers for the half-term break.
  • Hull says pupils receiving free meals will be given a £10 voucher at the start of next term from the council, to assist in reimbursing costs of food over the half-term week.
  • Kensington and Chelsea says over 3,000 children will receive £15 vouchers over half-term.
  • Kirklees will provide free school meals during school holidays next week.
  • Knowsley will provide free school meals during school holidays next week.
  • Lambeth will provide free school meals to all schoolchildren who need them.
  • Liverpool City – Mayor Joe Anderson announced the council will fund free school meal vouchers for half-term.
  • North Tyneside will provide free school meals over half-term.
  • Oldham will fund free school meals over half-term.
  • Portsmouth will provide funding for free school meals over the Christmas holidays.
  • Salford City says families in receipt of free school meals can claim them during the half-term holidays and also at Christmas.
  • Southwark says it's written to schools with the details.
  • Redbridge will fund free school meals over the October half-term and Christmas holidays.
  • Rochdale will invest in extra food vouchers for families over half-term
  • Rotherham will fund free school meals over October half-term
  • St Helens will provide vouchers for children entitled to free school meals over half-term.
  • Telford and Wrekin has extended its free school meal breakfast provision during holidays into 2021.
  • Wigan will provide funding for thousands of children to get free school meals over half-term.
  • Wolves will provide meals for thousands of children from low income families
  • York will provide free meals for children who normally receive free school meals to support them during this half term

Where to get help if you're struggling

While restaurants and councils offering to extend school meals into half-term may provide temporary respite, sadly many people struggle to afford food on a daily basis and need more long-term support.

If that's you, there are places that can help. In particular, foodbanks give out free parcels that should provide at least three days' worth of in-date, non-perishable food. To get help from most foodbanks, you need to be referred (though this isn't the case with some independent foodbanks). You can typically get referred by a doctor, health visitor, school or social worker. If you're not sure who to talk to, try asking Citizens Advice.

You'll likely be asked some questions about your income and why you need to use the foodbank. This ensures the food goes to people who need it most. Common reasons for referrals include redundancy, receiving an unexpected bill or a delay in benefit payments.

The Trussell Trust is one of the biggest foodbank charities in the UK, where it runs two-thirds of foodbanks – use its website to check if it operates near you.

If you're struggling financially, also see our Debt Problems guide, which has details of what to do and where to get help.

What about Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland?

The row over free school meals during the holidays has been focused on England, as in the devolved nations alternative arrangements have been put in place.

Half-term in Scotland was this week, and the Government agreed funding with local authorities for free school meals. In Wales, the Government has guaranteed free school meal provision for all school holidays up to and including Easter 2021. The Northern Ireland Executive is to set to extend free school meal payments to cover the October school holidays.