West Berks Foodbank, part of the Trussell Trust, appeals for the public's help in feeding children in need over the summer holidays
A West Berkshire charity is appealing for the public’s help in feeding those in financial crisis over the summer.
West Berks Foodbank said it needs an additional four tonnes of food each week for the six weeks of the holidays in order to help the nearly 400 children identified as needing support.
Manager Fran Chamings said the charity, which is part of the Trussell Trust, usually offers support to an additional 140 individuals over the summer holidays, but this year schools have asked for help for 398.
The Covid-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdowns have seen thousands more people experiencing financial crisis this year.
It is a problem that was highlighted by England football star Marcus Rashford, who shone a light on the issue of children going hungry, particularly in the school holidays and used his own experiences as a child to encourage the government to offer additional support.
“We normally give food to schools in the holidays,” Mrs Chamings explained. “We have delivered food to make sure the children the schools are most concerned about will get fed over the holidays.
“We have been given names of nearly 400 people who will need support during the school holidays, which is an extra four tonnes of food each week for six weeks.”
The charity will deliver enough food for three meals a day, for seven days a week, throughout the six-week holiday.
The charity, which is based at 80 Greenham Business Park, has already arranged additional shifts of volunteers to put the food packages together, as well as extra drivers to ensure the food can be delivered to the door of the recipient.
But it is now the steady supply of food that is causing them concern and they are pleading with the local community to get behind them and help ensure nobody goes hungry this holiday.
Earlier this month West Berkshire Council announced that it had received additional funding from the Department for Education (DfE) to expand the Holiday and Food Activity (HAF) programme to a further 13 schools this summer.
Pupils aged five to11 will go to participating schools over the summer break for a range of activities while learning about nutrition.
Plans for community activities for children aged 12 and over are also planned.
The expansion follows 15 primary schools participating in a new trial to provide children aged five to 11 who receive free school meals (FSM) with activities, which also taught them how to keep fit and healthy.
Mrs Chamings said West Berkshire Foodbank is now in desperate need of tinned goods, healthy lunchbox snacks, long life fruit juice and confectionary, as well as fresh fruit and vegetables. They cannot accept any frozen or chilled foods however.
There are drop off points at a number of the large supermarkets across the district, including Waitrose, Sainsbury’s and Tesco in Newbury, or food can be taken to the Greenham warehouse between 9am and 12pm Monday to Friday.
They are asking that any fresh fruit and vegetables are taken directly to the business park so they can ensure they are sent out to recipients within 24 hours.
Tesco in Newbury and Hungerford is also collecting tokens for the foodbank, which will see it win £1,500 if it collects enough votes.
The charity expects to deliver up to 300 boxes every day during the summer, with four driving teams working across the area to reach every corner of West Berkshire.
There are 130 volunteers – described by Mrs Chamings as “selfless and fabulous” – who work tirelessly to collect donations, make up the food boxes and deliver them to those who need additional support.
She said that she is receiving support from Newbury Soup Kitchen, Loose Ends and the Community Furniture Project, along with local businesses, to help them meet the increased demand this year.
“It is just amazing and everyone pulls together when needed,” she added.