110 children fed by joint Christian project during August lockdown

Lockdown has been tough for most parents and kids. Occupying and home-schooling children has been a challenge for even the most patient of parents at some point during the six months that schools were shut this year. But for many families in the Black Country, there was an added pressure. How were they going to afford to feed their kids?

This is a common concern for many parents during the school holidays. Holiday Hunger is nothing new and tragically, thousands of children across our region are used to going hungry when they’re not receiving a free school meal.

Hunger surged during lockdown, with recent government statistics suggesting that 7.7 million adults were going without food or skipping a meal because they could not afford to eat. During lockdown the government made attempts to support “pupil premium families” by providing meal vouchers to ensure the children in these households had enough to eat throughout lockdown and throughout August.

“The government’s help for the poorest families was great. But there are many families who earn just above the threshold for pupil premium who really struggled financially as lockdown went on and by the summer, they were in real trouble,” explains Lisa Parkes, Project Manager of the Revive Project. “We just knew we had to do something to help.”

Revive is a holiday club initiative organised through the Love Dudley network. It was set up in Summer 2019 to provide holiday clubs during the school holidays which include a free, cooked meal for children who might otherwise go without during the holidays. Revive clubs also provide social activities, games, crafts and entertainment for children who would otherwise miss out. There were Revive Holiday Clubs planned throughout 2020.

Lockdown changed it all.

“Lockdown restrictions meant we couldn’t gather children physically for the holiday clubs we’d had planned, but the need was still there, so we decided to find an alternative solution,” explains Lisa.

In mid-July, 6 schools in Dudley and Gornal were approached and asked to identify vulnerable families who would not already be receiving the government’s meal vouchers during the summer. These families were then asked to get in contact with the Revive team to register for the Revive Summer Packs.

Lisa and her team helped to mobilise 50 volunteers, from church across Dudley, to pack and deliver food and activity packs to these vulnerable families in central Dudley and Gornal. Each pack, delivered once a week during August to each family’s doorstep, contained enough food items and menus, donated by Black Country Food Bank, for breakfast and lunch for 5 days. The packs also contained fresh bread, fruit and a baking activity donated by CHADD, alongside a craft activity to help keep children entertained during the long days of a lockdown summer.

“All of the content in the Revive Packs was donated through partnerships with local organisations or funded through a Dudley Council grant and was a wonderful demonstration of the power of working together,” explains Lisa.

Alongside the food pack, a private Facebook group was set up and weekly Revive Holiday Club videos were premiered, full of dances, activities and fun challenges for children to join in with.

“The Facebook group was wonderful,” explains Project Coordinator Kelsey Davies. “We got to know so many of the families receiving the Revive Packs by interacting with them online. It was great to see so many parents uploading pictures of their children’s baking and crafts. Most of all, it was wonderful to be able to engage these families with resources which shared the gospel in a fun and exciting way.”

All in all, 110 children from 36 families in Dudley and Gornal were fed and supported throughout August and their feedback throughout was overwhelmingly positive.

One parent shared their thoughts online:

We’ve just received our Revive Pack! Absolutely amazing. Thank you so much, we are so grateful. I can’t believe the generosity. Thank you! My boys are very excited to complete the activities!”

Lisa and Kelsey have received many more comments like this one, from grateful parents who took part in the project. You can hear more about the project and the feedback received by watching the specially commissioned video about the Revive Summer Project here.

As the Coronavirus pandemic continues to ravage the nation, financial projections are painting a future looks bleak for many and food poverty will inevitably increase as families suffer the economic fallout caused by this pandemic.

Yet Lisa is excited about the potential scalability of the Revive model to help meet this need.

“The same issues that exist in Dudley are prevalent across the whole region and it’s our dream to see the Revive Project grow so that churches are mobilised in every Black Country borough to support vulnerable families in this way.”

Plans are already in place to expand the Revive Project into the Kates Hill’s area of Dudley during October half term, in addition to the areas and families supported in August and we’re aware of Christians in Walsall who are passionate about trialling a similar project there. We’re sure there are people in Sandwell and Wolverhampton who also feel the same way.

At Love Black Country, it is our dream to enable and support churches to work together to meet the needs of their communities, because together, we are stronger. If you are passionate about seeing holiday hunger tackled in your borough, please get in touch by emailing info@loveblackcountry.org.uk. We’d love to hear from you.

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