THE community is continuing to rally round to provide free school meals to children this half-term.

Morrisons has teamed up with Carlisle City Councillor for the Belah & Kingmoor ward Gareth Ellis and the Belah Community Centre to provide free pack lunches to children throughout half-term.

Running between 12.30pm and 2.30pm throughout half-term, children or parents can collect a lunchbox with no questions asked.

"Sometimes it doesn't need a lot of resources (to make a difference)," explained Mr Ellis.

"It is just a sandwich box in place of a meal at lunchtime.

"I would have loved this to have happened when I was younger, it's good to see that the community has taken on responsibility."

Mr Ellis has donated the £500 allocated by Carlisle City Council to each councillor to support projects like this one.

However, the councillor is urging people to only use the service if they need it.

"We need integrity and honesty. Come if you need it.

"What I have been doing is working with supermarkets collecting stuff, a lot of which we've not needed to pay for.

"It is just to get us through half-term to ensure kids have full stomachs."

Mr Ellis praised the efforts of local businesses who have stepped up to help in the preceding days and months.

MPs controversially voted against extending free school meals to disadvantaged children during the holidays.

The Labour motion, backed by England footballer and child poverty campaigner Marcus Rashford, proposed to offer free school meals during holidays until Easter 2021. The move would have been unprecedented, but many believed it was necessary to help struggling families.

The Government says it is targeting support in other areas by increasing Universal Credit and allocating £63m to local authorities. One of the businesses which has stepped up to help is Healthy Living Kitchen. Owners Jonathan Scott and Faye Roberts have donated 250 free meals to the Gatehouse Cafe.

The Carlisle cafe has closed for the entire week to deliver food to vulnerable families instead.

Jonathan and Faye moved into Harraby Green Business Park in February and were due to start their own cookery school later this year. That dream has been temporarily halted due to the coronavirus pandemic.

"We always said we wanted to give something back to the community whenever we could and we found this opportunity on Facebook," he explained.

"We have seen how hardworking businesses, shops and restaurants and we decided to donate meals for the kids so they don't have to worry where their next meal is coming from.

"We are exceptionally proud to be from Carlisle. We're doing really well with our food-prepping business, but it is not about making money, it is about giving something back to Carlisle."