STRUGGLING families in Leeds are being given free school meals as wellwishers across the city come forward to help.

Donations and offers of help to the campaign include £25,000 from the players of Leeds United - an amount that has now been matched by the club itself.

The city council, charities, community organisations and businesses have come together to provide 36 locations - including Otley, Horsforth, Guiseley and Rawdon - where free school meals will be available during the October holiday.

Reacting to the Leeds United donation city council leader Cllr Judith Blake said: “This is a very generous gesture by the Leeds United players and something extremely positive during these otherwise challenging times. It is an excellent example of the city’s ongoing commitment to pulling together to support those in the greatest need.”

Sparked by footballer Marcus Rashford’s campaign to extend free school meals over the holidays, the city’s business community has rallied to support struggling families by offering free meals to those in need.

In addition to the city’s business community, the Leeds Community Foundation’s Healthy Holidays programme, run in partnership with Leeds City Council, is also providing children and families with access to meals and activities during the holidays.

Councillor Jonathan Pryor, Leeds City Council’s executive member for learning, skills and employment said: “In the face of a dire situation, it has been inspirational and quite emotional to see the good in the citizens of Leeds shining through.

“Thank you to all those businesses contributing, and to all those volunteers giving their time too. Your efforts will make the world of difference to so many people. Thank you too to those who have donated money, including Leeds United players, the board and fans. It is an excellent example of the city’s ongoing commitment to pulling together to support those in the greatest need.”

Cllr Blake added: “The support that has been offered in such a short space of time has been truly amazing, and is clear proof of the city’s ability to rally round and support those in the greatest need.

"I would like to thank everyone who has committed their time and effort to come together to support such a vital response on behalf of children across our city.”

The places where families can get free school meals include

Konak Meze Restaurant, 9-11 Town Street, Horsforth, LS18 5LJ. Free essentials, or ready hot meals, for young families who need support through the holidays. Message them on their Facebook page.

The Potting Shed, Oxford Road, Guiseley, LS20 8AA. Free children’s pizza to anyone who needs help providing for their child, Monday to Friday, 12pm-2pm. Contact in advance on 01943 871 287 to arrange.

The Princess, Apperley Lane, Rawdon, LS19 6BJ. Message on their Facebook page and they will drop off a lunch between 12-2pm, Monday to Friday.

The Rumbling Tum Cafe, 9 New Inn Court, Otley, LS21 3AJ. Monday, Oct 26 - Sunday, November 1. Free takeaway lunch boxes.

Contact Leeds City Council for additions and corrections to the list.

Last week the leader of the Liberal Democrat Group on Horsforth Town Council called on Leeds City Council to help vulnerable children.

He said: "We're really concerned about the impact this will have on local children. We've writing to Leeds City Council asking them to step in. Its not their job, but other councils in the North have agreed to provide school meals during holidays and we hope the City Council do the same."

The letter said: "In Leeds,there are nearly 20,000 children who are at risk of going hungry because of the Conservative Government decision not provide free school meals. We believe that no child should go hungry in Leeds. Therefore,we are asking Leeds City Council to intervene and provide free school meals during the holidays. We accept that it is not Leeds City Council’s job to do this.However,we believe that local children should not suffer from the failure of Boris Johnson’s Government. Other Northern Councils,such as Knowsley,have committed to taking on this responsibility and I hope you will consider stepping in."

Yesterday Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis defending the Government's position on the Andrew Marr Show.

He insisted ministers were providing support to families struggling due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“I think we’ve got the package in place that means people have got the support they need during school holidays,” he said.

Mr Lewis insisted the Government had the “right position”, increasing Universal Credit and providing £63 million to local authorities to help people in their communities at a time of hardship.

“I know this is a very emotive issue. It is a sensitive issue. It is something that affects families in my constituency as well as round the country,” he said.

“What we are looking to do is ensure that we deal with child poverty at the core, putting the structure in place that means even in school holidays children can get access to the food that they need.”