A GROUP of Christian charities have set up an initiative, Lockdown Hunger, to support children and their families over the summer, and are encouraging churches to work closely with schools to support them.
The charity YourNeighbour.org, working in partnership with the Salvation Army, Transforming Lives for Good, the Message Trust, the Love Your Neighbour network, and the Audacious Foundation, has highlighted how the 1.4 million children living in poverty before the pandemic, including the 1.3 million who were eligible for free school meals, now face even greater levels of financial and food insecurity: a summer of “unprecedented need, struggling to access basic support and everyday essentials such as food”.
The founder and director of the Message Trust, Andy Hawthorne, said: “We want to see children fed, but also meet broader needs, such as providing summer activities and improving mental and physical well-being. We hear of schools that are giving all they can to close the gaps, and we want to stand right alongside them and do what it takes, along with our congregations — along with the whole community.”
The Government had initially refused to supply vouchers for free school meals over the summer holidays, but relented after a campaign led by the Manchester United footballer Marcus Rashford (News, 16 June). Children eligible for free school meals can now, at the end of the school term, receive a one-off voucher worth £15 a week for the six-week break, which can be redeemed in supermarkets. Campaigners applauded this, but said that families needed more help. Churches are being encouraged by Lockdown Hunger to team up and approach schools in their area to discuss their needs, and offer help with providing food and activities for their communities.
“While the lockdown is starting to ease, the need isn’t,” the chairman of the YourNeighour.org network, Dr Russell Rook, said. “As Christians, we want to demonstrate our love for those around us, and this is a pivotal moment for us to do so. We know church leaders will have a huge amount to do as they start to reopen, but we don’t want people to miss this opportunity to help those around us.”
Tim Morfin, the chief executive of Transforming Lives for Good (TLG), a national children’s charity that helps churches to support children and families in their local community, said: “The impact of Covid-19 calls for a community-wide response. TLG’s Boxes of Hope initiative is doing just that, equipping local churches to personally respond to the needs of families on their doorsteps. As a result, churches have already provided over 92,000 equivalent meals to over 2000 children and their families — and this is rising each week.
“This is a brilliant response, but there is still so much need. We don’t want any child to be hungry, and are inviting every church across the UK to join us in responding to the need in their local communities.”