UNISON organiser helps families find half-term meals

Help Out When School’s Out is an online search tool connecting families to local businesses providing half-term meals

A UNISON organiser has set up a website to help families locate free meals during half term.

Help Out When School’s Out was set up by UNISON area organiser Jack Horwood and his friends in response to the government’s decision to not extend free school meals to cover school holidays.

The website has a postcode search tool that lists the contact details of local businesses offering support to children and families this half term.

Inspired by footballer Marcus Rashford’s #EndChildFoodPoverty campaign, over 1,800 businesses are now listed on the site, ranging from cafes, pubs and restaurants to community centres and local football teams.

Mr Horwood had the idea for the site last week, immediately after the government’s announcement that it would not be extending free school meal provision.

He said: “I saw a local business say that they would be offering free meals and lots of other businesses started doing the same. I thought to myself: ‘wouldn’t it be great if we could map these in some way?’”

He then got in touch with a web developer friend and some designers, and, by Saturday afternoon the site was up and running.

Image of a young white man at his computer

Jack Horwood at his computer

So far, over 74,000 people have searched the site, with an average of around 12 searches per minute.

Mr Horwood continued: “The response has been incredible and, if even it means that just one family gets access to a decent meal this half term, then it’s all been worth it.”

UNISON national officer for education and children’s services Leigh Powell applauded the launch of the tool and the contribution businesses and organisations are making, but added that it is “not these businesses’ job to step in, the government needs to have a rethink – particularly as we head towards Christmas.”

Visit the Help Out When School’s Out website.

The website covers England and Northern Ireland. Wales and Scotland are not included on the website, as their governments are continuing support for families over half term.