CAFES, pubs and restaurants in west Dorset have been offering free meals to children over half term after Conservative MPs voted against the extension of a school meals scheme during holidays.

The community has rallied round to offer free meals for struggling families following the controversial vote.

Dozens of venues in the area have extended this offer to local children who would usually qualify for school meals.

Hannah Schep , landlady at the Three Horseshoes, said: “We don’t want any child in the Bridport area to go hungry and believe that if we are in a position to help, we should.

“The pressure of how you are going to feed the kids during school holidays is something we may all face in the future. We want to take the pressure off.

“This isn’t about politics, this is basic humanity.”

Dewi Lambert, owner of Aroma Cafe, said: "I think the initiative is a great idea and it's been going well. We haven't had too many calls for it but I think that's just because so many businesses have done it. It's great that the community has been able to share the load and all come together to help those less fortunate.

"In terms of why we decided to do it, I just think it was the right thing to do and if you are in a position to be able to do help out like this then why wouldn't you?"

Sarah Edwards, one of the owners of Bridge House Hotel in Bridport, said: “We saw some other places doing it up and down the country and we thought it was a great idea.

“We’ve had people take us up on it and have had a good response. It has been really nice to have been able to help quite a few local families.”

Clare Pimbley, landlady at the Half Moon in Bridport, said: “We wanted to get involved in the initiative to help support the local community who helped support us so much during the lockdown.

“It’s gone very well so far, there has been plenty of people taking us up on the offer which has great.

“We’ve seen some familiar local faces and have been able to support families and it has been relatively easily for parents to put their orders in and to collect from us, so all in all it has gone pretty well.”

Footballer Marcus Rashford had launched a campaign for free school meals for less fortunate students to continue outside term time. A Labour motion was brought before the House of Commons, but was voted down by Conservative MPs.

A full list of businesses who are running the scheme can be found on the Bridport News website.