24 Oct Heartbreak, Tears, Joy & Relief
The free school meals policy was designed to help improve learning outcomes – hungry children tend not to learn as well as they should do. We found this out from experience many years ago as our learners were arriving at school finding it difficult to concentrate even in morning classes. We asked them what their routines were before leaving for school and found that many were coming to us without breakfast. It was very easy to start a breakfast club which allowed us to provide learners with a nutritious meal to set them up for the day ahead. We were astounded by the results as concentration improved, behaviour improved and of course the biggest outcome was that learning outcomes improved. In order to further support learners throughout the day we prepared lunches and breaktime snacks. At each break we offered healthy options which had a slow uptake to start but now represents one of our more popular items.
With the Government voting to take free school meals away from children this holiday we felt very strongly that our learners and their families must not go hungry over this period. Knowing just how severely the retraction of free school meals would affect some of our families, Peregrinate School immediately made the decision that we would fund a weeks supply of food to each of our learners that we would normally provide.
As our school broke up for half term on Friday, we delivered food parcels to all our learners with enough food for breakfasts, lunches and snacks for the full week. The parcels contained sufficient food items to prepare two meals each day, as well as including a selection of fruit, biscuits and snacks.
Our staff had some touching and tearful doorstep encounters with worried parents. Our deliveries were received with thanks and an immense degree of relief. Many families told us that they had been worrying about how they were going to be able to cope and just how much this would help the whole family over the weeks holiday and take them out of hardship.
Having ensured that all of our learners and families had received a parcel we had some parcels left over. We went onto social media to offer the remainder to local families in need. Some of the circumstances we heard were truly heart wrenching. A lady called us to request a parcel and was totally honest that her child was not eligible for free school meals as she was only two years old but she did not have any food in the house for the baby or herself.
Chris, our Director went out and bought some extra baby food for her parcel. Another explained that she had seven children and if we could deliver any food parcels she would be extremely grateful but could we just leave them on the step as her and her husband had tested positive for COVID-19 and had to isolate along with all of the children. She was clearly comforted to receive the food parcels as she told us she could not go shopping due to isolation and had no support to get it for her.
Having worked in communities across the Greater Merseyside area for many years we were probably more aware than most of the everyday hardships and struggles to put food on the table for children faced by some families. Our deliveries have highlighted just how close to child starvation some families are living. We believe that no child should go hungry and hope that our food parcels have helped just a small number of Merseyside families. Holiday hunger is not new but has been highlighted by this pandemic just how much many families rely on the free school meals entitlement.
We would like to thank all of our staff who planned, secured, packed and delivered to almost 100 families in just 24 hours. Thank you for being so dedicated, professional and for your incredible hard work but thank you most of all for caring.
If you feel strongly enough about child food poverty please support Marcus Rashford’s petition at https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/554276