A SCHEME to provide emergency food vouchers to families in crisis has been announced today by Dudley Council bosses as a national row over free school meals vouchers refused to go away.

The council has launched a crisis hotline - 07903 374686 - for families in crisis to contact for emergency food vouchers as well as for other help and support.

Dudley Young Health Champion Project will be taking the calls between 9am to 1pm from tomorrow (Tuesday October 27) until Friday October 30.

The caller will be asked a series of questions to understand how best to signpost the family and, if appropriate a code will be emailed to them, together with guidance on how to redeem a food voucher.

This scheme is in addition to the efforts of a growing number of voluntary groups, faith groups and businesses which have rallied to provide grab bags or meals for children over the half-term holiday.

Councillor Patrick Harley, leader of Dudley Council, said: "No-one wants to see children go hungry this half term and we have been working behind the scenes to get this voucher scheme up and running

"I’m delighted to say today it is now live and I would urge any family in crisis to get in touch. As well as offering food vouchers people calling the number can also be signposted to further support and advice.

"I’d also like to say a massive thank you to all the businesses, faith groups and voluntary groups which have offered up meals to children this half term.

"Throughout this crisis we have seen an incredible response from our close-knit community as we work together to support each other."

Among those doing their bit to help families in need and to ensure children do not go hungry are big-hearted Shannon Butler, Kyra Skelding and Jessica Hackett who have been co-ordinating efforts through a Facebook group called Feed Our Kids which has already notched up more than 4,000 members.

Shannon from Dudley said: "Our goal is simple, just to avoid children going hungry. Whoever needs are help will not be judged or made public. We are hoping people will get involved and become a community."

She is encouraging people to give a little, even if just adding £1 on to their weekly shop such as by buying an extra bag of pasta to donate and she said: "We are covering many areas over the Black Country, having drop off and distribution points, and we are working to get over 300 parcels ready for the Christmas period for children and families who are on a low income."

Poshkutz dog grooming parlour in Lye High Street is among the drop-off points for food donations.

To find out how to help check out the Feed Our Kids Facebook page which also has information on local businesses doing their bit to support the campaign.

For more details on Dudley Council's emergency food voucher scheme go to dudley.gov.uk/halftermfood.

Across the Dudley borough's four Parliamentary constituencies more than 3,000 people have signed a national petition calling on the Government to end child food poverty by expanding access to free school meals, providing meals and activities during school holidays and expanding the NHS Healthy Start scheme which offers free milk, fruit and vegetables to families on certain benefits.