Helping free school meals campaign ‘a no-brainer’ for Leicester takeaway

By James Wynn

A Leicester takeaway have described their decision to back the nationwide free school meals campaign as a ‘no-brainer’.

Popat Mithai & Farsan, who sell savoury and sweet Indian snacks, are offering vegetarian lunchboxes to all children on free school meals this week in support of the #ENDCHILDFOODPOVERTY campaign led by footballer Marcus Rashford.

Since a vote to extend free school meals was rejected by MPs last week, Rashford has shared takeaways and restaurants that are offering free meals to his 3.7 million Twitter followers, including the offer from Popat Mithai & Farsan.

Popat Mithai & Farsan’s free school meals promise was tweeted by Marcus Rashford to his 3.7 million followers.

“Our decision to help was absolutely spurred by Marcus and the widespread outrage at the vote to deny free meals over half term,” said Shyam Popat, who works at the takeaway with his family.

“I grew up in a more deprived area of Leicester and many of my close friends were living in or on the line of food poverty.

“As we work in the food business, it felt like a no-brainer to help out in our own limited way.”

As a result of Rashford’s campaign, the government U-turned on their decision to stop free school meal vouchers over the summer holidays.

The feat was not to be replicated last week, however, as 322 MPs voted to stop giving the vouchers last weekend.

Along with the help given by food outlets in the aftermath of the vote, a petition launched by Rashford to extend free school meals has almost 950,000 signatures at the time of writing.

“I think the country has been united in condemnation of the decision not to spend on kids’ food,” Shyam said.

“Keeping kids fed is a necessity, it’s not a new iPhone or new clothes.”

The government have received criticism for refusing to back the campaign, especially after subsidising meals in restaurants throughout the month of August, which is believed to have cost the government around £522m.

By comparison, an extension to the free school meals campaign over the half-term week would cost approximately £20m.

“I’d like to see how some of these politicians would deal without a decent lunch for one day, let alone a week,” Shyam said.

“The hypocrisy is astounding.”

In the first day of half term for the majority of the country (OCT26), more than 10,000 meals were donated by hundreds of restaurants, takeaways, community groups and councils.

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