26 Jun 2017 Guest Blog: MakeLunch – the national initiative tackling Holiday Hunger
MakeLunch: 52,000 meals to tackle holiday hunger (and counting)
When we sit down for our meal at Lunch Club, there are bowls of carrot batons, sticks of cucumber and lots of cherry tomatoes. It all disappears within a few minutes (but cucumber is by far the most popular) before a hot meal comes out, cooked by a small army of volunteers and wolfed down by energetic, lively kids. Together, we all make up a community that is MakeLunch. And we’re one of over 90 communities like this in the UK running this project.
MakeLunch is a network of Lunch Kitchens that are filling the holiday hunger gap. 1.2 million children in the UK are eligible for Free School Meals. But when school stops for the holiday, so does the food. MakeLunch provides training, resources and support both in launching a project and once it is up and running. We started by partnering with churches who were wanting to support their local community and now offer training to schools, local authorities and other community groups who want to join in. The collective effort 1000s of volunteers has served over 52,000 meals in the last 6 years.
But what is ‘holiday hunger’ and why is it an issue?
The University of Northumbria have been conducting research into this issue for the past 3 years. Holiday hunger can present itself in a variety of ways; where the provision of Free School Meals stops in the holidays, many families find themselves without enough money to add an additional £30-£40 to their grocery shop to fill this gap. 1 in 6 parents in low income families have skipped a meal in order to feed their children during the school holidays. There simply isn’t enough to go around. Another facet of this issue is that health services report that Body Mass Index of poorer children increases dramatically in the school holidays. Children are engaging with less activity and the food they are eating is nutritionally poor, leading to increased weight gain1.
The impact on these children is significant; health, wellbeing and educational progress are all affected over the school holidays. Evidence has shown that it can take poorer children, who aren’t getting enough healthy food to eat, up to 5 weeks to return to the standard of learning that they were at before they left school before the summer holidays1. Dental cavities, frequent headaches, anxiety, chronic illness and aggressive behaviour are all more prevalent in hungry, malnourished children.
The All Party Parliamentary Group on Hunger released a report detailing these effects and the findings of an inquiry carried out into holiday meal provision in the UK1. Their recommendation was that the government lead in giving local authorities duties to convene provision in their area and allocate a top slice of the sugary drinks levy to fund each local authority with a £100,000 grant to abolish holiday hunger. It’s a strong recommendation with great potential. But until then, we’ll keep telling people who want to, how to run a holiday meal provision project and cheer them on as they do it.
Our network is running Lunch Kitchens in all shapes and sizes but by partnering with MakeLunch means they have access to a wealth of information and experience, as well as specially designed training and resources and funding opportunities. We make sure that all Lunch Kitchens are run in line with best practice standards and, by collating data and stories from across the network, we are able to advocate for long term change around this issue.
Our network is stronger than ever with 93 partners signed up as of this summer. After the last school holidays, one guest at a Lunch Kitchen in Ayreshire said:
‘The staff here are nice and I learned good manners’
Lunch Kitchens are about so much more than food. They are a place where community grows, families find safe, welcoming company and children are able to flourish during the school holidays.
If you would like to know more about how MakeLunch can help you with starting a Lunch Kitchen in partnership with your community, get in touch today to start the conversation (firstname.lastname@example.org). To find out more about the organisation, follow this link.