This week, Cheltenham's Conservative MP, Alex Chalk, voted against extending funding for free school meals into the school holidays - leaving thousands of children from low-income backgrounds in our town at risk of going without food this Christmas.
16,750 children across Gloucestershire are in low-income households entitled to free school meals. For many families facing financial challenges at this difficult time, free school meals are a lifeline that can make the difference between a child having a hot meal every day or going to bed hungry. But food poverty doesn't end when the school term does.
But community organisations in Cheltenham are uniting to support children and families in Cheltenham - through a holiday hunger scheme that will run throughout the half-term holiday.
The scheme, organised as part of the #feedcheltenham network, provides a range of options including food parcels, a home-cooked, family-sized meal or supermarket vouchers to families who might otherwise go without.
The work is part of a wider effort to ensure people have access to affordable food throughout the year, with a particular focus on supporting people during the pandemic. However, local community food providers are already reporting that food supplies are starting to run out and would like to remind people how important it is to keep on donating, either food or cash.
The work also forms part of the Cheltenham Borough Council-led collective commitment to No Child Left Behind, a programme of work that is raising the issues of child poverty in the town and promoting the ethos of compassion and kindness within many of the town’s schools and organisations.
Cllr Roger Whyborn, mayor of Cheltenham, thanks the community food network for their incredible work: “During the pandemic, the community food network was providing the equivalent of over 2.5k meals per week to vulnerable people in Cheltenham, demonstrating how kindness and compassion flourished even in difficult times.
“I want to make sure that our local community food banks and food projects have access to sufficient food and money to meet food needs and I’m asking Cheltenham people to once again demonstrate their kindness by continuing to donate.”
Councillor Flo Clucas, cabinet member for healthy lifestyles, said: “I’m so proud of the tireless work of our community food providers – without them, so many people would struggle as many children and families would go hungry. But they are dependent on the kindness and generosity of local people for donations of food or cash. As winter approaches, I’m asking Cheltonians to come together and once again demonstrate the kindness for which they are renowned.”
For more information on the scheme including how to get help and support, download the Holiday Hunger leaflet.
Monetary donations can be made in the following ways: www.cheltenham.gov.uk/holiday-hunger-donations.
By small standing order, ideally weekly, to Mayor of Cheltenham’s Charity: account 00610720, sort code 20 20 15, reference: MFBank.
The Mayor of Cheltenham’s Food Bank Fund: https://www.cheltenham.gov.uk/payments
Feed Cheltenham crowdfunder: www.crowdfunder.co.uk/mayors-food-bank-fund-cheltenham
Buy Cheltenham Lottery tickets at www.CheltenhamLottery.co.uk and search for Foodbank or at 01242 396124. 50% of ticket sales go to The Mayor’s Food Bank Fund, and you could win up to £25,000.
Cheque to Mayor of Cheltenham’s Charity, PO Box 12, Promenade, GL50 1PP
Please ensure that MAYOR’S FOOD BANK fund is written on the back of the cheque along with your address.
Food parcel donations are also welcome at individual food projects:
Cheltenham Open Door: cheltenhamopendoor.org.uk/donate/
Cheltenham Food Bank Trussell Trust): cheltenham.foodbank.org.uk/give-help/donate-food/
CCP (Caring for Communities and People): www.ccp.org.uk/donate-food
Springbank Community Food Bank: uk.gofundme.com/f/springbank-community-food-bank
Cornerstone Centre: www.cornerstonecentre.org.uk
St Peters and The Moors Big Local – Reduce Food Waste Project: sptm.org.uk