RYEDALE is rallying to support families facing difficulties due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

A number of businesses and organisations have stepped forward to offer free meals to children during the half-term holiday, after MPs, including Thirsk and Malton MP Kevin Hollinrake, voted against footballer Marcus Rashford’s bid to have free school meals for eligible children extended through the school holidays.

Last month, the Manchester United player said Mr Hollinrake, needed to “talk to families” experiencing food poverty following comments he made on Twitter, that “where they can, it’s a parent’s job to feed their children”.

Rashford has been spearheading a movement to make sure underprivileged schoolchildren are able to have access to free food during the holidays.

However, this week Mr Hollinrake continued to back the government’s stance arguing families were better supported in other ways.

He said: “I have always been clear that we need to look after those in most need and that none of us want to see children go hungry. I believe that the best way to support families outside of school terms is through Universal Credit or discretionary funds provided to local authorities, which have been increased during the Covid-19 pandemic.”

Mr Hollinrake added: “If we are planning any significant increase to the welfare state we need to engage with the taxpayer about how we can pay for this as it would almost certainly mean higher taxes.

“The alternative, of course, is that we spread welfare among many more people, which will mean that less will go to the people who are most in need.”

However, Liberal Democrat Cllr Di Keal, who is also a director of Community Smart CIC, a community interest company formed to coordinate and manage community projects in Ryedale, said: “It is appalling and truly distasteful to hear some of the richest people in the country claiming that it is parents’ responsibility to feed their children - no one denies this, but you can only feed your children when you have the money to do so.

“Thank goodness that local voluntary organisations, charities and businesses have stepped up to feed some of the most vulnerable children in Ryedale.

“It’s a tribute to the amazing community spirit across the district that continues to support people during the pandemic and is now doing the job that the government is yet again falling to do - provide for those in greatest need.”

This week, Community Smart CIC launched a fund to support its projects, including helping to provide food for youngsters.

Fellow director Jack Ashton said: “We are able to offer support, meals and, working with the local support network across Ryedale, can offer food aid with access to long term solutions to help families.

“If there is anyone who has run out of food or necessities, or times are just tough, please don’t let you or your kids go to sleep on an empty stomach.

“Don’t be afraid or embarrassed to get in touch.”

Meanwhile, a number of organisations and groups have set up collections for Ryedale Foodbank in the run up to Christmas, including the 1st Helmsley Scout Group.

Donations of non-perishable items can be made each Thursday, throughout November and until December 17, from 5pm to 5.30pm, at the scout hut.

Various pubs, cafes and restaurants are also offering free meals for children this week, including Morrisons in Malton.

Kathryn Dunn, Morrison’s Malton community champion, said: “We have loads of food to donate to families who need a little help this half-term.

“Please private message me and I will help you. No questions asked.”

For more information and support, go to communitysmart.org or phone 07922 421326.