As a result of the Coronavirus outbreak, it is predicted that more children than ever could go hungry across the UK this year. Demand for food support is expected to increase by around 40% according to FareShare UK, the UK’s largest food charity, as more families face severe financial pressures because of the pandemic.
Statistics from Derbyshire County Council indicate that applications for free school meals increased by over 600% between March and May, compared to the same time in 2019, demonstrating that many living in the county are experiencing these pressures first-hand.
Thanks to a recent campaign from footballer Marcus Rashford, the free school meals vouchers continue to be available over the summer holidays – but many families will still struggle with food insecurity this year.
Matlock based charity, Rural Action Derbyshire, heads up the Feeding Derbyshire partnership which works with a number of voluntary and public sector bodies to support food projects around the county.
Feeding Derbyshire has secured funding from Feeding Britain for School Holiday Food Projects and FareShare Midlands who have received support from Central England Co-operative to provide food to 18 different clubs around Derbyshire this summer.
The Summer Holiday food offer will deliver up to four days’ worth of supplies each week to every child registered with participating clubs over the six week summer holiday period.
Packages include staples such as breakfast cereal, pasta, rice, tinned goods, fruit, and healthy snacks, allowing families to take food away and make meals at home. There will also be the option for chilled foods, allowing clubs to make meals in bulk, as Feeding Derbyshire attempt to accommodate the food requirements of all of those in need.
The project aims to reach at least 1,400 disadvantaged children across Derbyshire, providing over 100,000 meals and 85,000 pieces of fruit over the summer holidays.
These packages are being delivered in reusable bags which can be returned, helping to promote a culture of recycling and refilling.
Feeding Derbyshire has also provided a cash grant enabling clubs to purchase additional items for children, including toiletries, sanitary items and craft materials. Groups will also have access to virtual activity bundles to keep kids entertained while schools remain closed.
By providing healthy, balanced food packages to children during the break, the Summer Holiday Food Project will boost Feeding Derbyshire’s ambition of ensuring the most vulnerable people have access to nutritious meals.
This is just one of many crucial programmes organised by Rural Action Derbyshire, which creates and champions sustainable solutions to tackling food insecurity and rural poverty, and works with 28 food banks and 22 community cafes across the county.
Over the last two months alone, this work has helped Derbyshire food projects to double the amount of food provided to local people.
Funding shortfall – can you help?
However, facing a potentially overwhelming demand for food, Feeding Derbyshire may lack the necessary funds to continue providing these essential services for vulnerable people.
It is estimated that it will cost upwards of £88,000 to continue to support children and families over the next academic year – although this figure could rise if the free school meal voucher scheme is withdrawn after the summer.
This would create a cash shortfall between October half term and Easter meaning that children would go hungry as families struggle to cope during the school holidays.
If you would like to help support this vital work, please support Rural Action Derbyshire’s fundraising campaign via their website: https://www.ruralactionderbyshire.org.uk/Appeal/school-holiday-clubs-2020 and share it via your social media channels.