Village furious over MP’s free meals vote will provide them instead

A community left angry after their MP voted down proposals to fund lunches for children receiving free school meals over half term has rallied into action by organising their own initiative.

The group in Goldsithney, near Penzance, which includes the local pub, several members of the community and other local businesses, has already raised nearly £700 on its crowdfunder which will go towards the scheme. Any surplus funds will go towards food parcels or supporting children over the Christmas holidays. The initiative will offer children either a hot meal or a cold meal.

The scheme was the brainchild of friends Nikki Fulcher and Jo Smith and after their original plan to use the village hall transpired to be a nightmare of paperwork, their local pub, The Crown Inn, stepped in to save the day.

Nikki told Cornwall Live: “It started with a group of us saddened and angry by the Government vote against providing free meals in half term, with all the MPs in Cornwall voted against it too. I was saying about how helpless the vote made me feel when Jo, a friend of mine, said about hiring the village hall to do packed lunches and it snowballed from there.

“When it became clear that hygiene regulations would be a potential problem, Derek, from The Crown Inn, stepped in and said he’d be happy to arrange it from the local pub and they’ve taken a lot of the load in organising the initiative.”.

The initial idea on a local Facebook group took off and saw offers of donations from businesses and individuals, with Kelp Bakery providing bread and Goldsithney Farmers’ Market donating money in addition to the crowdfunder. They will offer meals to any children whose families are struggling rather than just those entitled to free school meals.

Nikki continued: “We’re sorting out a menu to make it easy to choose from and The Crown Inn is going to be offering both hot and cold meals. We won’t be asking for proof that people are in need as some people whose children might not be entitled to free school meals might also be struggling, such as people who are furloughed or made redundant.

“The idea is to help anyone who needs it and be inclusive.”

The Crown Inn which is providing the facilities to make the scheme possible
The Crown Inn which is providing the facilities to make the scheme possible
(Image: Submitted)

She also revealed her own motivations for starting the initiative, saying: “I feel really cross about it all. I recently watched a report on Channel 4’s Dispatches which made me cry out, with the report showing empty cupboards. There’s a stereotype that everyone struggling or on benefits has flat-screen TVs, lots of alcohol to drink and stuff, and that’s not always true. Some people have fallen onto hard times through no fault of their own.

“While our lovely community is pulling together, equally I hope that seeing all these places and people across the country embarrassed the Government. We’re not a third world country, we’re supposed to be up there as one of the richest countries in the world and yet we can’t feed our children.”

In response to the suggestion that some might take advantage the scheme, Nikki added: “While there might be some that take advantage, it’s certainly not a majority, but a minority and it’s that perception that sometimes makes people embarrassed or ashamed to seek help when they need it.

“Of course, whatever you do, some might take advantage but we are relying on honesty. We want to say to people that there’s no shame but if you feel there is, you don’t have to miss out and people in the community are happy to deliver to you. It’s better for people who need this help to pre-order but also we wont turn away anyone who doesn’t.”

See our live blog of all businesses and groups in Cornwall offering free meals here.

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Cornwall Live