After Conservative MPs in Parliament refused to back a motion extending free school meals for vulnerable kids through half-term, Kingston Council (RBK) said they would join other councils, businesses and groups around the country to offer food vouchers to vulnerable families during the break.

In a statement released Friday (October 23), the council said they would follow other efforts in England to provide food vouchers to some of the borough's most vulnerable children and their families in an effort to reduce food poverty.

Campaigners including Kingston and Surbiton Labour meanwhile responded by urging RBK to go further and extend the food voucher scheme and ensure no vulnerable children miss out.

A spokesperson for RBK said Friday:

"Arrangements are being put in place to ensure that the most vulnerable families are able to access food vouchers during this half term and over the Christmas holiday period.

"Parents whose children have a social worker or are receiving support from the borough’s children’s services department may be eligible for assistance."

They added that any family "impacted by Covid-19" could also appeal for help in the voucher scheme through the Kingston Stronger Together hub online.

In a later update detailing eligibility that is available here, RBK said that "eligible families will receive supermarket vouchers of £15 per week per eligible child (for the school holiday period). Vouchers will be emailed to you."

"It is important that we do everything we can to support our children and families in need, and I am very pleased that we are able to make this contribution towards reducing holiday hunger," Cllr Diane White, the portfolio holder for the council's Children's Services, said.

In offering free food vouchers to help feed children in poverty-stricken families, RBK are joining a massive upsurge in action against food poverty currently underway in the UK.

It has occurred in response to the government's reluctance to guarantee food to some of the country's poorest children, and is being spearheaded by Manchester United and England Footballer Marcus Rashford.

The council's outlining of who may qualify for the free food vouchers on Friday prompted Kingston and Surbiton Labour to pressure them into extending the forthcoming scheme to support every child who was at risk of going hungry over half term.

"We welcome the Council’s rapid response to the situation this week...despite the enormous pressures families are under due to the coronavirus pandemic, after a decade of austerity.

"However, from the information published so far it appears that only a fraction of the children receiving FSM vouchers who were helped previously will be helped now," Conor Bollins, who chairs the Labour party in the area, said.

"Many children receiving free school meals do not receive services from RBK so will not be provided for under this scheme, nor is it clear which children will eligible.

"Will you be working with schools to identify who is claiming the FSM to signpost them directly to this alternative assistance? In this instance, simply putting out a statement on the website will not ensure families are aware of the support available," he added.