School lunch room

Wimbledon shopping centre pledges free meals for school children

A Wimbledon shopping centre will provide almost £4000 in food vouchers to school children this week, after MPs voted against directly funding free school meals over the half-term period.

Centre Court offered £15 vouchers to 256 Richards Lodge pupils who are eligible for free school meals during term time.

Friday’s announcement comes after 322 MPs, including Wimbledon’s Stephen Hammond, rejected a Labour motion to extend free school meals over school holidays until Easter 2021.

Hammond defended his vote in a statement released on Sunday, saying: “It is best if this direct support is provided by Local Authorities.”

He continued: “I do not wish to see any child go hungry and have tried always to act compassionately.”

Headteacher Alison Jerrard said: “Centre Court’s work is a brilliant example of the kindness of community businesses.”

Eligible pupils will each be able to collect a voucher in the shopping centre from Tuesday.

Each voucher’s value is equivalent to a £3 school meal for every day of half-term.

Lynsey Coleman, marketing manager at Velocity Worldwide said: “When it was announced that the children who depend on free school meals would not be getting support from the government, we decided to offer our help.

“In the absence of our usual half-term family events, the money can be used to still benefit the community.”

The initiative will cost £3,840.

Jerrard added: “The staff reaction has been fantastic with people working over their weekend to pass the message on.”

Centre Court joins dozens of organisations across the UK pledging free meals to pupils as part of a high-profile campaign led by Manchester United footballer Marcus Rashford MBE.

Merton Councillor and 2019 Lib Dem Parliamentary candidate for Wimbledon Paul Kohler thanked Centre Court on Twitter.

Hammond has not replied to a request for comment.

You can check out interviews with other south west London businesses donating free meals to school children here.

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