Generous Cornish businesses supporting Marcus Rashford’s free school meals campaign have been praised by council leaders who have promised to provide food vouchers for children over Christmas.

Cornwall Council leader Cllr Julian German and Cllr Sally Hawken, portfolio holder for children, have applauded Cornwall's businesses and community groups for rallying to offer free meals to those in need, sparked by the footballer’s campaign to end child food poverty.

Cornwall Council’s portfolio holder for children, Cllr Sally Hawken said: "The government were right to provide free school meals during the last two holidays and quite simply are failing children by not continuing this provision.

“We welcome the community spirit seen in Cornwall throughout this pandemic that carries on regardless of how hard things get. We offer a sincere thank you for everything our communities are doing to support struggling families this half term.

"We would like to place on record our wholehearted support for Marcus Rashford’s ‘End child food poverty’ campaign.

“No family should ever be faced with the worry and anxiety of not being able to provide for their children in the holidays.”

The council says since 2018 Cornwall Council has a run a summer programme called ‘Filling the Holiday Gap’, which provided small grants to community groups and volunteer organisations to provide activities and food for children and young people in the greatest need.

During the pandemic the scheme was used to provide vouchers to those that missed the deadline for the government vouchers. This year the council will be providing a scheme to support all those receiving Free School Meals for the Christmas holidays.

The number of children accessing Free School Meals has dramatically increased since the start of the pandemic in March. Cornwall Council figures show that 13,000 children are currently accessing the scheme, which entitles them to a hot and nutritious meal.

Businesses across Cornwall, from Ann’s Pasties in Helston to Rosie’s Kitchen in Bude, are joining Castle Beach Cafe in Falmouth in offering lunch bags and meals to families struggling to children who normally get a free school meal.

Cllr Sally Hawken said: "As ever the community of Cornwall has not hesitated to step in, with a large number of businesses, community groups and amazing individuals offering to provide free meals for children across Cornwall and I truly thank them for their compassion and generosity. But what we need is a sustainable funding plan from government that meets this need long term.

“This year the council will be providing a scheme to support all those receiving Free School Meals for the Christmas holidays.”

If you are in a position to provide support to Cornwall's ‘Filling the holiday gap programme’ this Christmas or during other school holidays, through resources or funding, please contact: Cornish foodbanks are providing vital support to families and people in need of help.

Transformation Cornwall has details of many foodbanks and many local communities run their own scheme as well.