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Lunchboxes and games beat holiday hunger

It’s a shocking fact that children are going hungry in the holidays – something a foodbank in Redcar helped to tackle with Tesco Bags of Help funding.

Footprints in the Community, a charitable organisation based in Redcar, noticed something worrying in the summer holidays. Demand for the services of the food bank increased dramatically, due to parents struggling to afford to feed children who usually received school meals.

Ruth Fox, Chief Executive Officer of Footprints in the Community said:

We began to notice this holiday hunger and we knew we had to come up with a way of helping.

The organisation’s foodbank is one of a number of projects the organisation runs to help reduce poverty and isolation in the area. It has served over 23,000 people since opening in 2013.

Lunch Box was devised as a way of giving children regular lunchtime meals in the holidays and tackling that holiday hunger. To reduce stigma and encourage take-up, fun activities would be arranged for children, with a free packed lunch provided at the end. Footprints in the Community was successful in applying to Tesco Bags of Help for funding to pay for staff time and the costs of providing activities and food.

When the next summer rolled around, Lunch Box was up and running. Games, quizzes and craft activities took place three times per week just before lunchtime (10am-11am) so children could be given a choice of packed lunches to take away with them afterwards. The packed lunch contained healthy sandwiches, crisps or cereal bars, and proved popular with around 16-20 children turning up to each session.

Ruth said:

We found that often the parents – mostly mums, but some dads too – enjoyed the craft activities more than the kids! The parents made friends with each other and brought in crafts and things they’d made from home too.

Each week, activities were designed around a theme, such as 'at the beach' or 'visiting the zoo' and included things like painting pebbles and making face masks. The final lunchbox session was a party with the theme of 'Superheroes' – with everyone dressing up!

Local schools helped Lunch Box reach the parents likely to be most in need with nearly 30 individual children benefiting over the summer. Parents have been really supportive and thankful for the service. Feedback forms have recorded 100% 'very happy' with the Lunch Box project. Comments have included “We’ve really enjoyed coming here… it’s really good, we’ve met new friends” and “Our kids are constantly asking ‘when are we going to lunchbox again!’”

Without the Bags of Help scheme the impact would have been much less, believes Ruth:

It just wouldn’t have been on the same scale without the Tesco funding.

We’ve got fantastic volunteers who come and help, but being able to pay a member of staff has given us that stability needed. And the funding enabled us to buy things – instead of making do we can buy proper craft activities for instance, which does make a lot a difference.

Footprints in the Community hopes to repeat the Lunch Box project this summer and expand to other areas of Redcar. 

Click here to read more Tesco Bags of Help success stories.