Following the government’s decision to not offer free meals to school children during the half term, teams across the county are working to offer endless food to all those in need.

After Carlisle’s MP John Stevenson, Copeland’s MP Trudy Harrison and Workington MP Mark Jenkinson voted against footballer Marcus Rashford’s bid for the meals scheme to be extended out of term time, along with 319 of their Conservative colleagues, the Cumbrian community is making sure all its children are fed this week.

And Cockermouth’s Main Street Fisheries is one of them, providing free meals to each and every person who needs support.

“We just thought the government hasn’t made the right choice, so thought it would be a good thing to do to make sure the children still get food,” owner Julie Miller said.

“I know there are a lot of people struggling at the moment – you see all sorts of comments on social media about how families are struggling with job losses and things, so it’s a good thing to do.”

The town-centre-based fish and chip shop owner added: “I’m worried people aren’t getting in touch because they’re embarrassed, but they don’t need to be at all.

“It’s all confidential, and we’re all friendly! So if anyone needs help just ring the shop or come in and we’ll make sure you get what you need.”

Also doing their bit for the children is Carlisle’s Gatehouse Cafe, which has closed for the entire week to deliver food to vulnerable families instead.

Owner Val Armstrong said: “It’s been a struggle for the entire hospitality industry recently, so being closed for one more week won’t ruin us.

“We can see the need for help in our community, and we’re doing all we can to fill that need.

“If you could see the cafe now, we’re currently disappearing under a pile of crisps, drinks, and all sorts of food donations.”

The team aim to reach every family that needs them, putting together donations from Benson’s Dairy at Longtown, Pioneer Food at Carlisle, Paisley’s Butchers at Wigton and so many more to create vital food parcels for all those struggling.

And it’s not just the children being helped.

“We’ve had parents ring up and ask for children’s meals, and when we ask what they’re eating, they say, ‘I don’t matter’,” Ms Armstrong said.

“It’s heartbreaking – nobody should be going hungry in this day and age, so we’re feeding parents as well as children, and providing meals they can heat up so they can eat together as a family.”

She added: “If anyone is embarrassed or worried about asking for help, don’t be.

“Anyone can find themselves in this situation, and we are here to help our community however we can.

“It’s not about politics, it’s about doing what is necessary for our community, and to keep our community fed.”

Countless businesses are getting involved with the push for free meals, including Egremont’s Spuds & Co, The Sunny Hill at Whitehaven, Flimby Sports and Social Club, Berry’s Tearoom at Brampton, Aspatria's Dreamscheme and so many more.

Lesley Berry, of Berry’s, said: “We’ve had parents apologising for having five kids, and saying we can just give them three meals to share – so we give them five, because no one should be going hungry.

“We should have left the time of children going hungry back 50 years ago!”

She continued: “I don’t need to know who you are, why you need the meals, I don’t need proof of free school lunches, I don’t care about any of that – all you need to do is say how many meals you need, how and when you want them delivered, and I will sort it.

“When you’ve got mums and dads lying awake worrying about whether to put £20 in the gas meter or buy their kids food, there’s something seriously wrong with society, and we just want to do what we can to help.”

Manager of Aspatria’s Dreamscheme, Linda Hunter, is also offering meals, and is distributing them through the organisation’s Rainbow Pantry.

The pantry was set up to provide food for the vulnerable during lockdown, and is now a Fair Share scheme where people can buy food for a donation.

Ms Hunter explained that after delivering food to children during the summer holidays, the group knows most families eligible for free school meals, and are pleased to play their part.

She added that all packed lunches can be collected from the Rainbow Room, on King Street.

To find your nearest trader offering food for children, visit