Protesters set to march in Harborough to demand that schoolchildren are given free meals when they are off on holiday
Feelings are running high as the demonstration gears up to kick off at the Old Grammar School on the town’s High Street at 10.30am.
Steve Maggs, chair of Harborough Constituency Labour Party, said they will stay there for about 30 minutes talking to shoppers and passers-by.
“We’ll be making it clear why we are there as we hand out leaflets and talk to local people here,” he said.
Steve said they would then march to the Nelson Street headquarters of Harborough MP Neil O'Brien.
“We will stage a display to show our support for ensuring that hungry kids throughout Harborough and across the entire country are fed.
“We'll post a letter through his door (assuming he's not there to receive us),” he said.
“It's likely the demo will consist mainly of Labour Party members as we're organising it.
“But I've invited the local Greens and Lib Dems and hope that other groups who feel strongly about this will join us.
“It's not a Labour Party event but an open demo for anyone appalled at the Government's response to this issue.
“The aim is to force our MP to change his position and put pressure on his party to provide the necessary support.
“Ultimately we want to know what Neil O’Brien will do to ensure that absolutely no kids in our constituency go without food during the school holidays ever.
“This is especially critical with the Covid-19 pandemic making things that much more difficult for so many families in Harborough.
“Neil voted against extending free school meals through school holidays until spring 2021.
“That’s just not good enough and it’s not acceptable.”
The demo is going ahead after Liz Mills, the chair of Market Harborough’s Jubilee Foodbank, criticised Neil O’Brien for not voting to back free meals for hungry schoolkids.
“Neil O’Brien should have voted in the House of Commons to give children free school meals.
“I’d tell Neil that you never know what it’s like to go without food, to go hungry, unless you have walked in these people’s shoes and lived their lives,” said Liz.
“Giving children free school meals is a short-term sticking plaster – but we have to do it.
“Not having the money to be able to put food on the table clearly highlights a much bigger, deep-rooted problem that we have to tackle head on.”
Defending his actions, Conservative MP Neil insisted: “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."
The dad-of-two added: “But I recognise that for some families even more is needed and a more permanent solution for the families with deeper problems who struggle outside term time.
“I'm glad to see the Government are now working that up in time for the Christmas holidays.
“There is also a question about families who don't get free school meals but are struggling at the moment and how we can help them too.”