Food banks in the West Midlands offer a stark insight into their efforts to ensure children do not go hungry this summer
Food banks in the West Midlands 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.
Bethany Food Bank and Elim Church Food Bank, both in Birmingham, and Lichfield 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 all three food banks have revealed why they are pleading with people to donate vital food and essentials during the coming months.
Lynne Oakley, from, Elim Life Church Food Bank, said: “We have seen the number of parcels handed out jump from 16 to 24 and the number of people fed from 44 to 59 between March and June.
“In terms of holiday hunger, we have links with local schools and during lockdown we have seen an increase in the number of referrals made by pastoral staff for two and one parent families struggling to feed their children.
“Our message to people this summer is don’t struggle in silence, we are here to help.
“The items we are in need of include tinned meat, soup, fruit, cereal, sugar, semi-skinned milk and nappies.”
Jane Hare, Secretary of Lichfield Food Bank, said: “We fed an average of 59 people per week in February this year and our current demand is an average of 115 people per week.
“The impact of holiday hunger is best described as a continuing need for a wide range of families, even with the recent policy change regarding school meal vouchers, there are still many families who are finding it very hard to cope and are in food crisis.
“Our message is we are here to help if anyone is having difficulty affording food for themselves or their family.”
Kevin Warrington, from Bethany Food Bank, said: “Our numbers have increased due to local schools now asking us to support them. We are helping 220 more people, especially children, due to lockdown - taking our numbers to over 1,100 per month.
“Because the schools will be closing for holiday shutdown we are expecting a big increase in children needing food.
“Please keep supporting the food bank and we always need tinned food but more so at the moment we need donations for running costs.”
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
Press office contacts: Rob Smyth and James Brindle
Phone - 01543 421390
Email - email@example.com