Community group provides free lunches for children in holidays

The Mead School in Tunbridge Wells gave a professional level performance in the  ISA drama contests

A group has been set up to offer free hot meals for families in the town who are struggling to feed their children over the school holidays.

FEAST, which stands for Families Eating And Sharing Together, is launching its Summer Lunch Club in the Methodist Church on Higham Lane once a week.

The first meal will be served on Wednesday July 31, with 30 to 40 people having been invited via a referral system – through agencies, schools or groups like churches. They will also receive a food parcel to take home.

Schoolchildren from poor families are eligible for free school meals, but FEAST says: ‘Food costs are rising, most families are feeling the strain on finances as everything costs more and more.’

‘And for some families without the free school dinners over the school holidays, that extra cost can really be stressful.
We hope to make things a little easier
for them.’

The organisers hope to expand the service to include the other school breaks and half-terms, using more churches as venues on other days of the week.

The project has been set up by the people behind the Tonbridge Parent Support Group, with help from foodbanks attached to other churches in the town.

The decision by FEAST to step in and help comes on the back of startling statistics published by the pressure group End Child Poverty this year.

It showed that in the borough of Tonbridge & Malling, 17.84 per cent of children are living below the poverty line after housing costs are taken away.

The worst affected area of the borough is Trench ward in north Tonbridge, where almost one in three children, 32.48 per cent, are poverty-stricken – 322 in total.

A child is deemed to live in poverty if their family lives on less than 60 per cent of the median UK household income – around £248 per week.

The idea for FEAST originated in a conversation between a steward at the Methodist Church, Lee Athwal, and Essie Andrews, co-founder of the Parent Support Group.

‘Lee worked with children at scouts and youth groups, she’s worked in lots of different places like shelters – she knows what’s going on,’ said Mrs Andrews.

‘I was helping at a community lunch for the elderly at the church and she told me that she had wanted to do this for a long time but it never materialised. She never had the support or interest.’

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