Food banks in Cambridgeshire offer a stark insight into their efforts to ensure children do not go hungry this summer
Food banks in Cambridgeshire that are working with Central England Co-op to tackle holiday hunger among youngsters this summer have provided a rare and shocking glimpse at the scale of its efforts to keep people from going hungry.
Yaxley Food Bank and Peterborough Food Bank offered the insight into their work as part of the Summer Support for Kids campaign.
This scheme, which runs until September, is an annual drive to collect vital food items to support those impacted by holiday hunger in local Co-op stores and, for the first time, is urging people to donate items such as arts, crafts and school supplies to help kids with their school work and keep them occupied during the summer months.
Now, to put the situation into perspective, staff from both food banks have revealed why they are pleading with people to donate vital food and essentials during the coming months.
Chris Grant, from Yaxley Food Bank, said: “Before lockdown we helped about four families a week (about 15 individuals) and we now supply about 10 families a week (about 30 individuals).
“Until the Government announced an extension to the school meals vouchers we were preparing for a big increase in our summer holiday parcel scheme (normally 8-10 families per week) – we had expectations of up to 30 families a week until the change in policy.
“Our message this summer is that we are open for business and we are happy for schools and organisations to refer people to us without the requirement for a voucher.
“We are currently most short of tea bags, cereal, biscuits, tinned veg, meats and fruits.”
Juliet Welch, from Peterborough Food Bank, said: “We fed approximately 170 a week last May, this May we have fed 300 a week. So we have seen a 77% increase.
“Holiday hunger will impact local families and due to COVID-19 there are significantly more families that have lost their jobs and so will for the first time be facing the summer holidays with little money.
“Our message is to encourage those with families who are struggling financially to check to see if they are entitled to the free lunch voucher for children which is being extended over the summer holidays but many parents do not know about this. Also, to encourage those that are able to continue to donate a tin or two as demand for our services is very high and likely to keep growing.
“The items we need most are tinned rice pudding, custard and instant mash, plus tinned meat and potatoes.”
The appeal will run from now until September and all customers and members have to do is drop items off in special collection points located in every store.
Items that can be donated include shopping basket staples from tea, sugar and cereals to other essentials such as toiletries and hygiene products. Also, food banks have requested drinks for children, as well as vital sun cream and after sun.
For the first time this year other items needed include small arts and crafts items such as crayons and paints, as well as school supplies such as pencil cases and stationery.
The retailer has been running its summer campaign to tackle holiday hunger for the past two years, resulting in over 300,000 donations and nearly 80,000 packages of food and essentials being handed out.
It will also be donating £100,000 to its food redistribution partner FareShare Midlands who will be providing food and resources to children over the summer months, plus they will also be campaigning to see a change in Government policy to provide better support for those in need.
On average, FareShare Midlands says it costs around £1.80 to create a healthy and nutritious meal for a child. This would mean the six-figure donation could provide over 50,000 meals during the coming months.
Research by FareShare Midlands, based on local authority statistics, has revealed that across the 16 counties Central England Co-op trades 1,163,134 children are currently living in poverty and face being impacted by holiday hunger - only 25% of which are actually accessing any kind of support such as free school meal vouchers reinforcing the call that more needs to be done to help.
Notes to editors
About Central England Co-operative
Central England Co-operative is one of the largest independent retail co-operative societies in the UK with interests in food, funeral, floral, travel and property investment.
Co-operatives have always been there for their communities; they were formed to protect them and help them flourish.
Our 7,900 colleagues who serve Members and customers work hard to ensure that co-operative values, principles and spirit flow through everything we do to help support and improve our local communities.
Owned by hundreds of thousands of Members, we have over 430 trading outlets across 16 counties including West Midlands, Warwickshire, Worcestershire, Staffordshire, Derbyshire, Leicestershire, Rutland, Nottinghamshire, Northamptonshire, Lincolnshire, West Yorkshire, South Yorkshire, Suffolk, Norfolk, Bedfordshire and Cambridgeshire.
We are proud of our reputation for ethical business practices and corporate responsibility.
We invest a percentage of our trading profit into local communities through our Community Dividend Fund scheme, have donated over £1.3 million to our corporate charity partner Dementia UK and also operate a pioneering food redistribution partnership with FareShare Midlands so unsold food goes to those in need.
Visit www.centralengland.coop for more information or follow us on Facebook or Twitter using @mycoopfood
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