17-year-old business owner receives Rashford’s recognition as Mayor launches free kids’ meals

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A Bedford business owner who has been supporting families in need during the school holidays has received an email from campaigner and footballer, Marcus Rashford, recognising his endeavours.

Darryl Woolerson is the 17-year-old owner of Choice Rolls on Lime Street. In October, Darryl responded to Marcus Rashford’s call to help families struggling to make ends meet during half term.

Rashford’s high-profile campaign, based on his own experience of food poverty –  forced the Government into a u-turn on providing meals to children from low-income families during the school holidays.

Read: Borough’s MPs respond to school meal vote as charities step in to feed families

As well as Choice Rolls providing food, Darryl asked his customers to ‘pay it forward’, donating to help supply meals for those in need. He was overwhelmed by the response.

“I grew up in a family with five siblings and money was always tight,” Darryl told the Bedford Independent.

“I know what it feels like to be in a family that struggles. I decided to help at October half term and was amazed at the kindness of people that wanted to pay it forward and help too.

“It actually blew me away.”

Despite now just being open for takeaways, Darryl is determined to continue helping vulnerable families during the Christmas holidays.

Email sent to Darryl by Marcus Rashford

“I hadn’t actually thought about it for the Christmas holidays as going into tier 4 is going to be quite difficult moving to take away only; but then I received the email from Marcus.

“With the help and support of the community (like last time) I really feel I need to do this again and help out . The community spirit really is amazing.”

Another Bedford business that has risen to the occasion is AB Fruits, who featured on BBC1’s documentary about Marcus Rashford’s campaign, Feeding Britain’s Children. You can watch it on the BBC iPlayer here.

AB Fruits (image: BBC1 Marcus Rashford: Feeding Britain’s Children)

Darryl’s decision to help struggling families in Bedford coincides with the launch of Mayor Dave Hodgson’s free school meal voucher programme for the Christmas holiday period.

The scheme sees supermarket vouchers issued to families with children on income-related free school meals, as part of the ‘No to Hunger in Bedford Borough’ campaign.

Read: No to Hunger in Bedford Borough campaign launches to support children in need

“No child in Bedford Borough should go hungry,” said Mayor Dave.

“That’s why we’ve moved swiftly to set up this scheme and get food vouchers into the hands of families whose children normally have free school meals when they are at school.

“During these difficult times people think of those in our community who need help the most, especially children. That’s why Marcus Rashford’s campaign was so powerful.”

Marcus Rashford MBE with his Sports Personality of the Year 2020 award (photo: Twitter @marcusrashford)

The vouchers form part of the council’s package of winter support and vouchers have been emailed directly to families eligible for income-related free school meals.

Families have been provided with a single voucher to the value of £30 per eligible child, to cover the 2 week Christmas Holiday period .

Any Bedford Borough resident with children whose circumstances have changed and who think they may be eligible for support is encouraged to visit Bedford Borough Council’s website – at www.bedford.gov.uk/schools-education-and-childcare/education-welfare-service/free-school-meals/ – and make contact.

The free school meals food vouchers scheme is part of the package of support launched by Bedford Borough Council and voluntary sector partners for families and households over Christmas and the New Year.

The ‘No To Hunger in Bedford Borough’ campaign offers support to help those in need get access to food so that every child in the borough will be warm and well fed this winter.

More details, including advice for those who need support and information on how to support the campaign, are available at the partnership website.

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