Before we even get to the finances part of the adventure that is parenthood, raising kids is no easy feat. There are all kinds of tricky territories to navigate - from school work and sports clubs to playdates and parties. Aside from all of the usual trials and tribulations, these past few months have been particularly tough on parents who have suddenly had to add ‘teacher’ to their CV while lots of our kids stayed at home to learn throughout lockdown.
For many families across the UK having to support their children at home for months on end without any additional assistance has been really challenging. With so much uncertainty in the world at the moment, there have been huge waves of job losses and we think it’s fair to say that the collective community has seen its purse strings tighten. One saving grace of the kids being back at school is that lots of little ones qualify for free school meals. While that’s great during term time, what do parents who rely on this little extra boost to their children’s welfare do when it comes to the holidays?
Recently footballer Marcus Rashford has done some really admirable work to bring forward a campaign that asked parliament to ensure free school lunches were provided through the holidays. While the drive was supported by many public figures, in the end parliament voted against putting the suggestion into practice. This wasn’t a popular decision with huge swathes of the nation, with one shop even going so far as to ban their local MP from the permesis for life when they found out they’d voted against the petition.
As we know, the hospitality industry is full of caring, compassionate and creative professionals, and this campaign has driven many restaurants to step up with hugely generous offerings in lieu of an official policy. During the October half-term there are lots of restaurants, pubs and cafes offering free holiday school lunches for kids in London. We’ve rounded up some of our favourites below, but there’s a really detailed map of free school lunches available across the rest of UK too, so that wherever you are in the country, if you need a helping hand these holidays you should be able to find plenty of places willing to assist.
Mei Mei, London Bridge
Mei Mei is one of the only Singaporean restaurants in London, and this half term it’s offering lots of incredible options for those who might appreciate a helping hand with a hot meal. This Monday-Friday the team at Mei Mei will be offering free hot meals, packed lunches and care-packages (which will be a box of freezer dinners to take home). The team promises a ‘no questions asked’ policy, and if you’d like one of the care packages to take home you just need to wish them ‘happy holidays’. This Borough Market restaurant is also raising money to help it make as many meals as possible across the next week via a Go Fund Me page which can be found via their social channels.
The Quality Chop House, Farringdon
As long-term fans of The Quality Chop House, we’re not surprised to see the team there respond to this current children’s crisis with a whole lot of love. Across Monday – Friday this week the restaurant will be handing out a packed lunch to any child who needs one, which will include a sandwich, a drink, some fruit and an all-important sweet treat. All you have to do is to pop by the shop between 11am-12pm on your chosen day(s) and ask one of the team for a packed lunch.
Randy’s Wing Bar, Hackney
As with lots of other restaurants offering free school meals for kids over the holidays in London, Randy’s Wing Bar in Hackney Wick are dishing up complimentary grub Monday-Friday. You’ll be able to eat in and enjoy a meal between 2-4pm on any of the given days. All you have to do is to email the team on email@example.com to reserve your spot, and all children up to 16 years old are covered. As you might expect, wings are king here, but there are also burgers, wraps, chicken strippers and all kinds of loaded fries to choose between.
Bleecker Burger, Victoria and Shoreditch
Joining the hundreds of restaurants supporting the UK’s children this October, Bleecker Burger is offering a free burger and fries to any kids who usually qualify for free school meals. To claim the offer simply bypass the ordering screens and ask the guys behind the counter directly, who will be happy to pop through your meal. As far as we can tell this deal is offered Monday – Sunday this week, and you’re able to pop in any time between 11.30am – 9.30pm for either lunch or dinnner.
The Rum Kitchen, Shoreditch and Brixton
Proudly standing behind Marcus Rashford’ initiative to support disadvantaged children across the UK, The Rum Kitchen is bringing free ‘school’ meals to families in need from its Shoreditch and Brixton sites. Each day this week there will be 40 free lunches for kids who are able to eat in between 12-2pm. From jerk bowls to buns served with skinny fries, we think this would make a great treat midweek to liven up lunchtimes.
Prince of Peckham, Peckham
For South Londoners, the Prince of Peckham and its food partner White Men Can’t Jerk are offering free children’s meals this Monday-Friday. The deal is that for every adult that eats, two children can eat for free with no strings attached. You don’t have to book, so just turn up and order from the menu as normal. There cooking here has a distinct Caribbean theme, so expect sweet and spicy jerk chicken alongside child-friendly mac and cheese.
The Duke of Richmond, Homerton
The Duke of Richmond were quick to jump into action once the news of government’s decision had spread. The team at this friendly local pub speedily put a plan into place to organise free takeaway meals for kids this half term. Each day there’s a table outside loaded with brown paper bags stuffed with either cheese or ham sandwiches (which are handily labelled). Alongside a sarnie, kids will receive some fruit, some raisins, a yogurt, a packet of crisps, a treat and some fruit juice. This one has had lots of lovely press, and the team have had donations to help support their cause – ensuring they’re able to help feed more of Hackney’s families this half term.
This hip London restaurant is proving it has that winning combination of both style and substance with its offering this half term. Having partnered with the Shahid Afridi Foundation, Smoke&Bones is working hard this week to get food to families who might be having a tough time over the holidays. The partnership hopes to get hot meals to lots of people who could do with a little extra assistance over the next few days. Simply be in touch with the charity or restaurant to organise how they can help. Collections of meals are encouraged from the Camden and Hackney Wick sites, and where possible the team is also willing to deliver to you should you need them to.
The Crown Battersea, Battersea
The Crown in Battersea is just one of a group of pubs offer free meals for the whole week of half term. Other sites in the Pub Love collection include The White Ferry in Victoria, The Exmouth Arms in Farringdon and The Rose & Crown in London Bridge. No purchase is necessary at any of the pubs and you can pick between ‘ugly nuggets’ and chips or a burger and chips plus carrot and cucumber sticks and a drink. Simply turn up and ask for one of the kids’ lunches.
Looking for somewhere to take the gang? These are the best child-friendly restaurants in London.