Protesters in Harborough demanding free meals for schoolchildren on holiday got their messages across - despite the heavy rain and high winds

“But it went really well, we had over 30 people there and we got a lot of passers-by to get behind us as well.”

Monday, 2nd November 2020, 12:21 pm
Updated Monday, 2nd November 2020, 12:23 pm
Violet Woodiwiss 7 and Willow Woodiwiss 9 during the free school meals demonstration under the Old Grammar School on Saturday. PICTURE: ANDREW CARPENTER

Over 30 people braved torrential rain and high winds to stage a protest in Market Harborough demanding free meals for schoolchildren on holiday.

The hardy souls, including children, came from all over the area to back the demonstration in the town centre on Saturday morning (October 31).

Steve Maggs, chair of Harborough Constituency Labour Party, said: “The weather was terrible and we all got soaked so a massive thank you to all of those who turned out to support us.

The free school meals demonstration set off to Neil O'Brien's office on Nelson Street. PICTURE: ANDREW CARPENTER

“But it went really well, we had over 30 people there and we got a lot of passers-by to get behind us as well.”

He said they will be piling pressure on Harborough MP Neil O’Brien to do far more to make sure that hungry schoolkids are properly fed when they are not at school.

“I'll be sending Neil O'Brien a letter to ask him to clarify exactly how the things the Government has said will be used to help will actually be implemented.

“We want to know what the long-term plan is here in Harborough as well as right across the country to combat and end growing child poverty and hunger,” said Steve.

Free school meals demonstrators gather under the old grammar school on Saturday. PICTURE: ANDREW CARPENTER

“We are all sending a loud and clear message to Neil O'Brien that he should support action to tackle child hunger now.

“We also collected signatures on a petition supporting the motion by Manchester United and England footballer Marcus Rashford that 322 Tory MPs voted against recently.

“Marcus, who’s been a true inspiration, does not want any child in the UK to go to bed hungry in 2020 and beyond – and we are all 100 per cent behind him.”

He said Labour Party members were joined by Cllr Phil Knowles, who leads the Liberal Democrats on Harborough council, and the Green Party’s Darren Woodiwiss as they step up their schoolmeal mission.

“We are grateful for their support.

“This whole issue is much bigger than party politics,” insisted Steve.

“We displayed dinner plates, decorated by local children, calling on Neil O'Brien to support the request to supply free school meals to eligible children throughout the school holidays until 2021.

“We then marched to his constituency office in nearby Nelson Street to deliver the plate-based message.

“People we met along the way were very supportive and there was strong agreement about backing our campaign from so many people that we met.”

Under-fire Conservative MP Neil O’Brien told the Harborough Mail last week: “Everyone wants to help poorer families with children.

“At the start of the virus epidemic the Government increased benefits by an extra £20 a week or £1,000 a year across the board.

“That will go to all those families who are eligible for free school meals every week, whether we are in term time or outside it.

“The Government has also given additional funding on top of that to local councils to support those families in the most hardship.”