SOUTHAMPTON is pulling together to help feed children in need next week.

Businesses and Southampton City Council revealed that they would be helping youngsters after the Government voted against footballer Marcus Rashford’s bid to have free school meals for eligible children extended through the coming holidays.

The city council says it will provide food vouchers to children on free school meals over half term, and a helpline will also be set up.

A number of Southampton restaurants, including Lakaz Maman and Kuti’s, will also provide free meals.

Southampton Test MP Alan Whitehead praised the move and the generosity shown by residents and businesses.

He said: “It is something that we can all be proud of. I wanted to thank everybody who has come together in this way because that is how between us we are going to get through this”.

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But while he described the move as “brilliant” he also said that this it is something that the government should be doing.

Further details are expected to be revealed on Monday as civic chiefs said they are also working with local businesses, schools, charities and food banks.

As reported, the government said that it has been giving “substantial support to families and children” with £9bn added to the welfare system since the start of the pandemic.

Cllr Christopher Hammond, leader of the city council, said: “Our most vulnerable children might’ve been abandoned by the Conservative Government, but we won’t sit back whilst our kids go hungry.

“Southampton City Council and a range of businesses, charities, food-banks and schools are stepping up to support any family who needs it over the October half-term.

“We will be publishing the full list of this provision on our website, establishing a phone line to assist families and offering food vouchers to anyone who needs it.

“Southampton is a city where everyone pulls together and this collective response will ensure that there is no family in the city with nowhere to turn and no child who has to go without food.”

The council said that support is growing and a number of schools are providing food directly to children in need.

Food banks run by Southampton City Mission and Poitiers Care are also providing emergency food to eligible families at various venues around the city on different days of the week.

Southampton Itchen MP Royston Smith said earlier this week the government gave the city council £6m to deal with the pandemic crisis this winter. He said: “It is turning into a horrible political campaign. It’s admirable that people have stepped up to help. Southampton City Council has been given funding from the government for discretionary payments such as this.”

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