The mayor of Liverpool said he was “not prepared to stand by and watch” as he announced £300,000 of funding to provide free meals for children in the city.
The money comes despite a council budget crisis and soaring coronavirus cases in the city.
Liverpool City Council was among a number of local authorities that announced help for young people after Parliament rejected proposals to provide free meals to vulnerable children during the school holidays.
The Labour-led council is one of many struggling to cope with large budget deficits, many of which have been exacerbated by the pandemic.
Joe Anderson told the PA news agency: “I am having budget meetings where I am struggling to find £20,000 in savings. But we had to find £300,000 to support 20,000 children in the city.
“I know what it’s like not to have food on the table… I know what it’s like to eat a jam butty for your tea. I know what it’s like. I have been there.
“I was brought up in poverty. I am not prepared to stand by and watch when I know families out there are really struggling, week in, week out for months now.”
The £15 supermarket vouchers will be distributed through children’s centres in the city from next Tuesday.
The Labour motion, prompted by a campaign by footballer Marcus Rashford, was defeated in the Commons by 261 votes to 322.
Five Conservative MPs broke ranks to support the bid with one, Caroline Ansell, resigning from a Government role in protest at her party’s position.
“They have got a Government that really doesn’t care and doesn’t understand,” Mr Anderson said.
He claimed it was “arrogance” for residents of the city to be treated in “such a distasteful way as to ignore our pleas and calls”.
Mr Anderson said: “There was 61 people who died last week, including Billy, my brother, from Covid in Liverpool. It’s heartbreaking.”
The city is under the highest level of coronavirus restrictions as the number of patients rose above levels seen during the peak of the first wave.
Oldham Council in Greater Manchester will also be providing meals despite being under Tier 3 restrictions.
They are two of a handful of councils to step up and support families during the holidays alongside dozens of pubs, cafes and restaurants.
McDonald’s UK has also offered support to families, with the fast-food chain tweeting: “We are proud to announce a partnership with Fare Share UK to provide 1 million meals for families in need.
“Our funding will enable the urgent redistribution of meals across the next couple of weeks to those in greatest need.”
Downing Street declined to praise such outlets offering to provide free meals for vulnerable children over half term.
A Number 10 spokesman, asked repeatedly if the Prime Minister welcomed the offer from businesses and some councils, said: “As we have set out before, we are in a different position now with schools back open to all and the vast majority of pupils back to school.
“I believe the PM said during PMQs that free school meals will continue during term time and that he wants to continue to support families throughout the crisis so they have cash available to feed kids if they need to.”
Labour-led Hammersmith and Fulham Council will give every pupil in need free school meal vouchers, equivalent to a £3 Tesco meal deal per day.
Council leader Stephen Cowan said it was a “moral imperative” to ensure children get the food they need.
Southwark Council will also spend up to £10,000 issuing food vouchers to every eligible pupil to ensure they can get food over half term.
Leader of Southwark Council Kieron Williams told PA: “Why wouldn’t you choose to feed hungry children? When you look at everything the Government has done to respond to this pandemic, this felt like one of the easiest choices they could have made to make sure children who need it most have food over this coming week.
“It would have been the right thing to do.”
Rashford, who was recently awarded an MBE after forcing a Government U-turn on free school meal vouchers over the summer holidays, said he was “blown away” by the offers of support from pubs, cafes and restaurants, and has been retweeting businesses offering free meals.
“Selflessness, kindness, togetherness, this is the England I know,” said the Manchester United footballer.
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