In June last year, the BBC screened a documentary called Poor Kids. Made by Jezza Neumann and Brian Woods at TrueVision, the programme showed what life is like for the 3.5million children who live in poverty in the UK. Three children from different areas of the country told their stories, covering various aspects of life including housing, income, holidays and food.
During the programme, 8-year-old Courtney showed us what's in her fridge - a bottle of milk, some margarine and two bottles of medicine. Later she talks about what she eats during the day:
Courtney: For dinner we have a big version of a sausage roll
Interviewer: What about breakfast?
C: Nowt. Cos I sometimes forget to make myself some toast or something or we're going to be late for school.
I: Do you ever go without lunch?
C: I go without dinner when I'm at home but when I'm at school I get dinner. I have tea when I'm at home but I sometimes go without dinner because my mum hasn't got enough money and she owes people money.
According to the documentary, one in five children from low-income families say they sometimes go without food. Children from single parent families are twice as likely to miss meals.
Later on in the programme, 11-year-old Sam tells us that he's recently started receiving free meals at school. He says it's a good thing because he's getting fed, but the pressure on the family increases during holiday time, as his dad has to find £10 extra per week just to feed him. This is true for Sam and many other families; school holidays mean time off school, but bring additional struggles in terms of providing childcare whilst the parent is working, not having enough money to take the children to activities and having to find extra money for food.
It's these simple stories from Courtney and Sam that have inspired Lunch. Lunch aims to see the 1.2 million children who receive free meals at school fed during school holidays by local community groups and churches. It's not going to solve the whole problem of child poverty in the UK, but feeding children who might otherwise be hungry during the holidays seems like a good place to start. We’ve put together a how-to pack with plenty of information to help you do Lunch in your area, to gather your own team and provide meals for the families that need it in your community. You can read more about Lunch on our website and the pack is free to download at www.makelunch.org.uk/do_it
Last summer, three pilot projects ran in Corby, Luton and Grangetown, serving approximately 400 meals between them.
Nik and Shelly Stevenson were the first to start. Undeterred by the lack of a suitable building, they served meals from a gazebo on open land near the local shops.
In Luton, the team were offered a disused café building on the high street in Hightown. Led by Chris and Steph Walker and Jeff and Alina Pullinger, they served hot meals for 13 days, meeting children and families from the local area who stopped in to eat. Steph designed a 5-day menu which minimised food-waste and catered for the cultural needs of the local community, including vegetarian options and halal meat. As one mum said, “Please keep doing this, it’s important”
Justin Tattersall is a teacher and church leader in Grangetown, Sunderland. He led a team serving meals for a week in the local community centre. Justin’s team welcomed children from several local families on a daily basis, largely thanks to the great relationships they’ve already built up in the area.
All three teams are planning to run the scheme again, and several people were interested in starting new projects too. It’s a simple idea that makes a big difference.
As well as serving lots of meals and meeting the local community, everyone who worked on one of these three teams will tell you that plenty of lessons have been learnt too. Our how-to pack has plenty of information to help you gather your own team and provide meals for the families that need it in your community, including details of Steph’s amazing menu.
Photos of Sam and his sister from TrueVision TV.