Make Lunch scheme set to combat holiday hunger in Reading

WHEN one mum told school family worker Carol Atkins that she had just £15 a week to live on during the summer holidays, she knew something had to be done.  “The mum had two children, aged five and 12 and I just thought I had to find some help for her. Unfortunately, she was trying to sort out her benefits and waiting to hear the result of an appeal. She’d been waiting since April,” says Carol, who worships at Greyfriars Church.

Having already used up their quota of handouts from the Reading Foodbank, the family were struggling to feed themselves.

“I found one church that does a meal on a Monday evening that they could go to. The other place was a drop-in but wasn’t suitable for families. It provides a fantastic service but there are a lot of people there who are addicted to drugs and alcohol.

“I spent a lot of the holidays worrying about this family and throughout the next term I was praying for something I could do. I knew this mum couldn’t be the only person in Reading in this situation.”

Carol was right. In Reading alone 5,500 children receive free school meals and their families are highly likely to struggle during the school holidays. So, when an advert for Make Lunch appeared in Carol’s Facebook feed, she was quick to bring it up at a meeting with other family workers. They, in turn, invited the Reading Salvation Army to talk about how they were supporting poorer people in Reading. Now, this summer, Make Lunch Reading launches in July at the Salvation Army Hall in Reading.

“The room we are using can seat 80 people and we can do two sittings. That is 160 people we can feed and we are only doing it once a week. We were advised to start small and grow,” says Carol.

The plan is to provide a nutritious meal on Thursdays during the summer holidays and in the October half term and on two days during the Christmas holidays. “We are only scratching the surface but at least we are doing something,” says Carol.

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This story comes two years after St Marks MK launched a Make Lunch project to feed poorer families over the summer holidays. 

Last year the Diocese of Oxford held a conference on the future of foodbanks.  It highlighted the plight of 500,000 people in the UK who are now reliant on food aid. It sparked an investigation by the diocese that revealed the numbers of people needing help from rural food banks is rising sharply.