This week in our series of guest blog posts we hear from Jasmine Le Ny from TLG on how their Make Lunch programme is adapting to help families during the Covid-19 pandemic:

It feels like there is something new for each of us to adapt to everyday during this Covid-19 crisis.

Family life. Friendships. Working from home.

But what about adapting to an empty, rumbling stomach?

Credit: Beth Waters

As restrictions continue to impact many aspects of our lives, TLG is greatly concerned for all the families who struggle with school holiday hunger. We know that these families are most likely to be severely impacted by Covid-19; parents who were already on the poverty line, facing food insecurity on a daily basis, wondering where their next meal would come from. With compassion and commitment, we’ve seen an astonishing response to the current crisis by our TLG Make Lunch centres.

The scale of holiday hunger is vast. Over 1.5 million children in the UK are eligible to receive Free School Meals. Millions of others live in poverty. Typically, our TLG holiday lunch clubs provide free, hot, healthy meals to children and families who would otherwise go hungry. However, since Coronavirus has reached the UK, school breakfast clubs have disappeared, free school meals have been switched to food vouchers, and low-cost staples have become sparse in our supermarkets. And how were families still going to feel connected and listened to with community gatherings prohibited? There was an urgent need for churches across the country to make sure these families were not being forgotten.

Immediately, our Volunteer Programmes team implemented the Box of Hope scheme. 72 of our TLG Make Lunch centres are now delivering these boxes to their Make Lunch families, both during official school holidays and term time. These emergency care packages to children in desperate need of help are full of practical items, as well as items centred around wellbeing:

  • Food supplies to feed a family of four for three days
  • Essential household items
  • Crafts and activities
  • Messages of hope written by our supporters
  • Signposting to other available support in their local area

These packages make sure that every member of the family is fed from breakfast all the way through to dinner. This has allowed limited family finances to be prioritised for paying for bills and taxes. Essential household items, such as soap, have been vital when food banks have run sparse of such resources. Crafts and activities have boosted the inspiration of many young children and have relieved pressure off parents and carers struggling with ideas of how to fill the day. Handwritten messages of hope have reminded families that they are not alone – the UK church are standing by them! Signposting to support in the local community has proved invaluable, particularly for families struggling with digital poverty and unable to access information online. Whilst maintaining social distancing, the delivery of these boxes and a quick chat at the doorstep have made families feel seen and heard once again.

A table laid for eating

We simply could not do this incredible work without our volunteers, so at TLG we have been quick to respond to their questions and queries. For example, a letter to take to supermarket managers, asking them to waive restrictions on the number of purchases, was quickly drawn up upon request. This has allowed the buying of multiples in order to distribute to many families across a community.

The impact has been astonishing! Our TLG Make Lunch partners have delivered over 15,000 meals worth of food to families across this nation, with this number rising daily. Our non-Make Lunch partner churches have also united in delivering Boxes of Hope – over 1,600 meals worth of food have been delivered to families who had never previously been reached.

The Boxes of Hope have proved to be a lifeline for families with additional mouths to feed, and often without the finances to do so. One family in Amersham said:

“Just received the food parcel we wanted to thank you so much. J was so thrilled with his creative package and he absolutely was so delighted with his chocolate chip cookies. Thank you again it will really help see us a few more days.”

Liz, Make Lunch Coordinator in Nottinghamshire, had gone above and beyond in meeting the needs of the community. One family wanted children’s books, and volunteers from the Club managed to source some from a local charity shop. Liz said in a recent interview with The Telegraph:

“It has been an amazing community effort. It has blown me away. I’ve learnt the value of partnership in communities, the value of volunteers and the importance of being attuned to people’s unique circumstances”

A huge thank you to all our Make Lunch volunteers who are making this work possible. With lockdown still enforced, and the official school summer holidays just around the corner, there is a pressing need to continue to support children and families who would otherwise go hungry. Click here to donate today to choose hope for these families.

This blog post originally appeared on the TLG website, reproduced here with permission