Helping to beat ‘holiday hunger’

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by Jo Duckles

A FRESH expression of church in Milton Keynes has joined the national Make Lunch initiative to ensure poorer children get a decent midday meal during the school holidays.
The scheme was launched because holidays can mean an extra burden for poorer families whose children are eligible for free meals during term-time.

Cooking up a treat: a nutritious lunch is served up by volunteers in Milton Keynes. Photo: St Marks MK.

Cooking up a treat: a nutritious lunch is served up by volunteers in Milton Keynes. Photo: St Marks MK.

According to a report by the MK Community Foundation, one in five children in the town are living below the poverty line. That figure struck the Revd Paul Oxley, who runs St Mark’s MK – a fresh expression of church. The national Make Lunch website states: “…in 2012, when the Archbishop of Canterbury asked a group of secondary school pupils whether they were looking forward to the summer holidays that were about to start, they said no, because they wouldn’t be able to get their free school meals while the school was closed.”

Vicki Offin, from St Mark’s, did the Make Lunch training and the scheme began in October 2015 with 23 hot, nutritious meals being served. This was followed up in February with 109 meals being served over the two days and at Easter, 124 meals were served. Vicki spoke to the Door during the spring half-term week, between Make Lunch sessions. “Lots of families are coming back. It’s really gained momentum and there is more and more interest from the council and other schools.”

For the May half-term the scheme was run in two new venues, including a family centre. There are 40 volunteers, including 14 from St Mark’s, but Vicki said that they need more help with cooking and serving the meals and clearing up afterwards. “I’ve got primary school aged kids who come with me to help and they like getting involved and helping and playing all the games.
“We are now looking at what to do during the summer holidays and want to definitely continue offering meals twice a week,” added Vicki.
Make Lunch is funded by donations from members of St Mark’s, along with food donated from Morrisons, Tesco and the food bank, as well as grants from the parish council and the MK Community Foundation.

As the Door went to press Vicki and her team of volunteers were preparing to serve up lunches for the last two weeks of the summer holidays.