I spent eight years living in the North East of England. It’s still my home base. In such a beautiful coastal landscape, lies a deep painful reality.
Just under 35% of children find themselves in poverty in Hartlepool. There are families who can’t afford their weekly shop. Adults are desperately struggling with debt problems. Unemployment is a stress.
However, it is not just the North that struggles. These same problems are seen all over the UK. Poverty is real and we can’t turn a blind eye to this. 14 million people in the UK are suffering from poverty! It is not a problem of the past.
When my home church set up the initiative to provide a free meal every Friday to local families, I was suddenly made aware of such poverty. For two years now we have seen the positive impact that feeding people and eating with families around one table can have. We’ve been able to disciple those who walk through the doors. Some have decided to settle debts. Jobs have been found. Families and neighbours are connecting.
For many of these families, free school meals are a huge blessing. But what happens over summer when schools close?
1.5 million children receive free school meals. For low income parents, budgeting for 7 extra meals a week, for six weeks is incredibly hard. That’s why so many families end up relying on food banks over the summer period.
Make Lunch Initiative
As well as the Trussell Trust (https://www.trusselltrust.org), other initiatives exist. One fabulous project is Make Lunch, set up by Transforming Lives for Good. Make lunch is a weekly free lunch club that not only feeds children but gives them space to play, make friends and grow in confidence. Parents are able to meet one another too. This story of Joanne and Marcie speaks for itself:
Summertime for me is so often filled with travels, good friendships and peace. Yet for many it’s the opposite – complete turmoil.
Heading home after a year at university means that I have to budget less. Returning to family essentially means that I don’t need to buy food for at least two months. I have so much to offer.
I want to see the end of poverty. We can start by sharing some of our happiness this summer.
What do you spend on food during term time? Can you give even just 10% of this each week to your local food bank?
Is there anything unopened and imperishable left in your cupboards? Before you leave or head for a holiday, please donate instead of tossing!
Spare time? Could you volunteer for a local community project?