St Albans and Harpenden eateries offering free children’s meals during half term

Ye Olde Fighting Cocks Landlord Christo Tofalli is cooking 200 meals for St Albans Food Bank. Picture: Danny Loo.

Ye Olde Fighting Cocks Landlord Christo Tofalli is cooking 200 meals for St Albans Food Bank. Picture: Danny Loo. - Credit: Archant

Following the campaign by Marcus Rashford, St Albans and Harpenden pubs, cafés and restaurants are offering free meals to hungry children over half term.

With the government refusing to offer free meals for children at risk of going hungry over half term, businesses across the district have been rallying round to provide support.

Despite a high-profile campaign by Manchester United striker Marcus Rashford calling for free school meal provision to continue into the holidays, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has refused to budge.

Now the footballer’s campaign has prompted fish and chip shops, pubs, restaurants and cafés to dish out free food to eligible children over half-term.

Christo Tofalli, landlord of Ye Olde Fighting Cocks, is cooking 200 meals for St Albans Food Bank this week, and said it was an easy decision to make.

“It’s just astonishing it has to be done at all. Our government still ignores the most obvious, simplest and completely unacceptable situation many are in.

“Many of which were not in need of assistance before Covid and it’s getting worse.”

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He has been getting up at 3am so he can get the kitchen back together before the pub’s chefs arrive at 8.30am.

“It’s 2020 and Conservatives keep voting against feeding hungry children. I am stunned, angry and so are more and more people every day.

“A massive divide is happening, it’s huge and the government is actually voting against feeding hungry children. Yes, they are happy that the most important part of their community goes hungry.

“We all know the hardest hit have been many Independent pubs like mine. We are all on our knees but we still have the compassion and ability to help even though it’s tough. The government is lacking the first of those.

“Starving children in any community is simply not acceptable to me and I can’t just watch it happen in mine.

“If there isn’t a u-turn soon it’s going to be an even bigger disaster than it is already. The government is fully aware that things are getting worse too, and still nothing.

“Can you believe we are already planning meals with the St Albans BID for Christmas? I’m not talking lavish parties, I’m talking feeding thousands of children in St Albans. Yes! St Albans! We will be needing thousands and thousands of meals.

“It’s a grim situation. To me, it’s completely unforgivable and a cruel vote that will haunt the guilty MPs sooner than they think.”

Daniel Koumi, who owns and runs The Ridgeway Fish Bar in The Quadrant, Marshalswick with his wife Elizabeth, said they are also doing their part: “The government’s announcement of no support for free children’s meals over half term has really hit home for us. Living in this community with young children ourselves, we would like to support other families around us who need the help right now.

“Therefore we at The Ridgeway Fish Bar are offering a free child’s meal during half term on Wednesday and Thursday 4-6pm and Friday 12 noon-2pm. Meals will include child’s cod bites and chips, child’s sausage and chips or chips alone.

“We just ask that customers order in store with child present and have one meal per child per day. Please state that you would like the ‘Kids Half Term Meal’ when ordering, should you need it in these uncertain times.”

The team at TK’s Café in Harpenden have also joined in, offering a free children’s packed lunch over half term to anyone facing difficulties.

“All you have to do is pop in and collect. All we ask in return is a beautiful picture drawn by your little angels so we can display it up in the café. No strings, no hassle, we just want to help.”

New St Albans Indian restaurant Taste of Nawab is also doing its bit: “We pride ourselves on making a positive contribution to the St Albans community. With this in mind, the thought of children in less fortunate circumstances going hungry has made us take action as a business and members of our local community.”

The restaurant will be offering a free children’s size curry, rice or naan to children who are currently entitled to free school meals and attend primary or secondary school. The free school meals will be available on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday (October 26-28) between 5.15-6.30pm.

Also involved are The Hare and Hounds and The Rose and Crown.

Owner Jamie West said: “As a Liverpool fan it’s tough to admit, but Marcus Rashford is a fine young gentleman who has transcended his sport at the age of 22.

“He is fighting the noblest of battles - one that he shouldn’t really have to fight - and he talks about community, which we believe the British pub is all about.

“If you are a parent in need you can give us a call or send us a message and we will arrange a time for you to collect free Mac and Cheese (with a bit of broccoli on the side) for your kids no questions asked.

“We don’t do politics, so it’s not for us to say who should be doing what on this issue. We do, however, support our local families in any way we can - especially in the ridiculous bubble that is 2020.”

Meals prepared by local businesses including Tavah, Dylan’s, The Great Northern Pub, Souvalki City, Ye Olde Fighting Cocks, Kaotic Angels and Sopwell Community Trust volunteers are also available from locations across the city.

Please email to request a meal.

Cooked free meals are available this Thursday 12.30-2.30pm from Hilldyke Community Centre, 17 Hilldyke Lane, Wheathampstead; and on Friday from 10am-12 noon at London Colney Parish Council, Caledon Community Centre, Caledon Road, London Colney.