The Wokingham Paper

Free school holiday meal petition ‘fastest rate of signatures collected I’d ever seen’

School dinners
Picture: Katrina_S from Pixabay

AN ONLINE petition calling on the council to provide free school meals during the Christmas holidays amassed nearly 500 signatures. 

Presenting it to the virtual meeting of Wokingham Borough Council on Thursday, November 19, Labour group leader Cllr Andy Croy said: “the speed with which the signatures was collected was the fastest I have even seen.

“It is only the restrictions imposed on us by Covid19 that stopped a far higher number of people signing in person.”

The petition, he added, was launched when “the Conservatives were prevaricating over whether or not to ensure that children in receipt of free school meals should be supported in the Christmas holidays”.

Cllr Croy reminded the chamber that there had been developments since, including the council being allocated money to support families and the freedom to choose how that support is provided. 

He called on the council not to consider vouchers, based on advice from the manager of Wokingham Foodbank, Annette Medhurst. 

He said that Ms Medhurst had told him: “Cash is the best way forward to support struggling households. There is dignity in the household being able to choose their own food and where it can be brought from.”

Vouchers would cause problems for those without smartphones, computers or printers, he said. 

“By trying to invent some sort of Wokingham Borough Voucher we risk a lot of effort being put into developing a tool to replicate something cash already does,” he added. “The point of the Borough response and our planning must be to give families not just food but to give families all the dignity we would wish for our own families.”

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