Over the October half term, after the government rejected a free school meals motion led by Manchester United footballer Marcus Rashford MBE, there was an outpour of support from businesses around the country, and among the first to do so was Warren’s Fruit and Veg, who have a stall in Rickmansworth.
Warren O’Connor, a Watford resident who owns the business, told us how more than 200 families and 600 children were supported after they allowed struggling families to have some of their fruit and veg for free, leading to a big amount of donations following to allow them to do even more.
Warren’s post was one of the first to be shared by Rashford on his Twitter account, which led to him appearing on many programmes such as BBC’s Breakfast and many radio shows.
More than £5,500 has been donated, allowing Warren to be able to continue the scheme on during the Christmas holidays, regardless of any government announcement that may come.
On October 22, a post on their Facebook page read: “Following the shocking announcement that free meals will not be continued over this coming half term, Warren’s Fruit and Veg are stepping up to the cause.
“So, if you have children at home this half term and were relying on the scheme to feed your children, please get in touch and we will sort you out with free fruit and vegetables to feed your children.
“We look forward to helping, where the government have let you down.”
Speaking to RickyNews, Warren spoke of his gratitude to the community as well as their suppliers for supporting them throughout the campaign.
He said: “In all honesty, we had absolutely no idea that this idea would generate so much attention. We really didn’t plan for it to go as big as it has. We thought only our personal friends and customers would be able to take advantage, but it blew up completely. Obviously, Rashford’s support helped that and we are very grateful to him, he’s a legend.
“We were one of the first to do it and we were so pleased that many people followed suit. To have helped more than 200 families in the process has been amazing. The exposure it got led to more and more people donating, and as a result we have more than £4,000 left in the kitty to continue to help over the Christmas period.”
As well as Rashford, many other big names joined him in supporting Warren. Watford FC legend Luther Blissett came to the stall to help one day, as well as Linford Christie.
Warren added: “It was extremely heart-warming to see that people were willing to get behind the cause. Luther Blissett is a legend around here, so his support was very grateful.
“We got to see first-hand the struggles that people were going through by being unable to afford to buy fruit and veg, so it as good to be able to help them.
“We’re definitely not looking for any further donations. We would urge people not to as we already have enough and have also received funding with our suppliers, GM Growers, donating the stock as well because they loved to see what we were doing.”
As well as in Rickmansworth, Warren’s Fruit and Veg also trades in Chorleywood, London Colney and Batchworth Heath.