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Posted on 29th May 2024

One Can Trust: School Meal Project

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This blog is from One Can Trust who joined the Feeding Britain network in 2021. Over the years, Feeding Britain have worked with One Can Trust to launch a fuel bank to provide crucial support to households in fuel crisis in High Wycombe. One Can Trust spoke at a Feeding Britain policy session on the challenges faced by families who are living in poverty but are not eligible for statutory Free School Meals or the Holiday Activities and Food Programme. During Summer 2024, Feeding Britain will be supporting a programme of holiday clubs across the UK for those families who are struggling but who miss out on statutory support.

One Can Trust is a charity based in High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire, providing services that support people in the local area who are experiencing poverty and food insecurity. Since 2011 we have operated a food bank which provides parcels for around 550 people a week, nearly half of which are children. In the last few years, we have grown, and now offer a range of community support services and food programmes, such as cookery skills classes using ingredients in the food parcels.

High Wycombe is a town that has areas of wealth and pockets of severe deprivation. The challenges posed by the cost-of-living crisis means that many families in our community are struggling to afford essential items, including school meals. In 2023 we saw evidence that many children were going to school without breakfast and weren’t eligible for government-funded Free School Meals (FSM), so were missing out on two meals a day. This has implications for their health and ability to learn. In response, we launched the School Meals Project, aiming to address this directly by funding places at breakfast clubs and hot lunches at school, for children who would otherwise be going to school hungry because their families are unable to afford food and yet they are ineligible for FSM.

Since January 2024 we have been supporting over 40 primary-aged children at three schools in disadvantaged areas of High Wycombe, and to date have provided nearly 3000 meals.  This support not only addresses food insecurity but also contributes to creating a positive learning environment in which children can thrive. We hope to continue the project into next year and increase the number of participating schools.

Addressing food poverty is just one aspect of supporting families in need. Therefore, the School Meal Project, via our Food Programmes and Community Support team, offers additional resources and services to participating families, including access to our food bank, children’s clothes bank, community cafe, and toddler groups. We work in partnership with agencies such as Citizens Advice, the Local Authority, and Family Support Services to connect families with additional assistance and resources as needed.

To demonstrate the impact of providing school meals, we are collecting information and data from our programme, for example children’s concentration and attention at school before and after they had access to the project, and feedback from families about the difference being involved in the project has made to them. We share headline data with key stakeholders, including community leaders and other relevant organisations and hope that by disseminating this information, we will enable change at both local and regional levels, through organisations using our findings to advocate for policies and practices that address the root causes of food insecurity and support vulnerable families.

We have started to collect some feedback directly from the funded families, below are two quotes that clearly show the positive impact the funded meals are having:

“With this funding being offered to my family it has ensured that I can afford my rent increase. I was paying over £200 per month for my two children to have breakfast and lunch at school.”

“I am a full time working single mother, I was spending £2.78 a day on my little girl’s lunch and although this may not sound like a lot of money to most, it really racks up especially as my rent has gone up.”

Here is a quote from one of our One Can Trust volunteers who is helping at a Breakfast Club at one of the schools involved in the project:

“It is heart-warming to see children eating together and having fun before school, it can only do good things by setting them up for the day with food and fun, children are polite and are so grateful, by providing this support it is not only filling tummies, it is also supporting children’s social skills too”.

For more information on any aspect of the School Meals Project, please contact the Project Manager at cara.nightingale@onecantrust.org.uk