Sunderland's City Tea Rooms offers free meals for children during half-term
Ashley Hammond and Dave Carter are serving up a helping hand for families hit by the suspension of free school meals during the half-term break.
A Labour motion calling for the free meals scheme to be extended over school holidays until Easter next year was defeated by 261 votes to 322 in the Commons on Wednesday, October 21, with five Conservative MPs rebelling to vote with the Opposition.
Now Ashley and Dave, who run the City Tea Rooms in Sunderland city centre’s St Thomas Street, are doing their bit to help, by proving free kids meals, complete with drink, during the holiday.
They posted on the venue’s Facebook page: “Every Day next week Mon - Fri we are going to give families a FREE sausage & chips meal with a cup drink for your child/children.”
The pair have three children between them and understand the importance of a proper midday meal.
"My son is nine and Dave’s kids are four and five,” said Ashley.
“That's one of the reasons why we have done this – we can’t help every single person but we can do something.
"The furlough is two-thirds of pay – it is not enough for families, especially if you are already on minimum wage. A lot of people are struggling.”
Meals are for collection only, between 11am and noon, and to keep families, staff and other customers safe, the number of collections will be limited, with strict social distancing in place.
"We are going to do five families every 15 minutes within that slot,” said Ashley.
"The parent does not have to buy a meal - it’s not buy an adult meal and get a kid’s meal free, it’s literally just a kid’s meal to take away.
They are confident people will not abuse their generosity and have already been shocked by how many people need the service: “We are just putting our trust in people,” said Ashey.
"We have already had one person asking if they can book three times for four kids.”
Anyone wanting to book a slot should do so on-line: “The only thing we are asking is to book is through the Facebook page facebook.com/CityTeaRooms/ so we can keep it manageable,” said Ashley.