CHILDREN in Leicester who normally have a free school meal won’t miss out over the half-term break, thanks to a holiday food programme that’s supported by Company Shop and Leicestershire-based Samworth Brothers.
The city council has teamed up with the surplus retailer and the food manufacturer to provide eligible families with fruit, vegetables, milk, bread and store cupboard essentials to ensure children have some breakfast, lunch and dinner options over half-term.
Families who have registered for the scheme will be able to collect their food from six pop-up community pantries that will be set up at sites across the city – including local schools, the Community Shop at Stocking Farm, a leisure centre and the King Power stadium.
Each site will be open on one day between Thursday 16 February and Monday 20 February for a specified time.
Families will be able to select a good food hamper and additional items from the community pantry, choosing food that their child likes to eat up to a value of around £25.
Deputy city mayor Cllr Sarah Russell, who leads the city council’s anti-poverty agenda, said: “Times are tough for everyone, but it’s particularly difficult for families on low incomes, especially as we see food prices soaring.
“I’m therefore really pleased that we’re going to be opening up our half-term food ‘shops’ again this month, which will hopefully make life a little easier for many local families.
“Around 15,500 children and young people in Leicester are eligible for free school meals and it’s vital that they don’t miss out on a meal when the schools are closed.
“I’d like to thank the team at Samworth Brothers and Company Shop for helping us support thousands of young people and their families across the city with this important half-term initiative, and I’d also like to thank the volunteers who will give up their time to help staff our six community pantries.
“Eligible families who have been contacted by their child’s school should now make sure they register for the half-term scheme by Sunday 5 February.”
Leicestershire-based Samworth Brothers produce premium quality chilled and ambient foods – from sandwiches, meals and savoury pastries to salads, cooked meats and snacks – so they are perfectly placed to provide the city council with the items required to provide a week’s worth of meals for thousands of children.
Karen Holdsworth, Samworth Brothers Group Community Coordinator, said: “It’s always a challenge to make sure we can get the huge amount of food required for these events but, working alongside Company Shop, it’s a challenge we relish and were able to rise to again.
“Within our business, we have some amazing people who have pulled together to make these six pop-up pantries happen. Without a great team of people, events such as this would not be possible. We’re very passionate about our responsibility to support local communities and we were very proud once again to work with the council on this fantastic initiative.”
Owen McLellan, Group Managing Director, Company Shop Group, said: “We saw a significant increase in the number of people and families accessing Community Shop’s services last year, and with more families than ever having to make a choice between a warm home and a warm meal, these pop-up pantries are extremely important.
“We are delighted to be working again with Leicester City Council and Samworth Brothers to support these pantries and help thousands of people access fresh and healthy food during the school holidays.”
The city council will fund the £140,000 scheme to help support the city’s most financially vulnerable families.
Children who are eligible for the scheme will have been directly contacted by their schools. Families wishing to take up the offer have until Sunday 5 February to complete a registration form and select the pop-up shop and time slot they wish to use.
The February half-term food offer is available to families who have children who:
- receive benefits-related free school meals
- are at full-time school (aged 4 to 16)
- live in Leicester (or attend a city school, if they live outside of Leicester)
Anyone who thinks their child might be eligible for free school meals can find out more at leicester.gov.uk/freeschoolmeals
Picture caption: Bananas are unpacked at a pop-up pantry ahead of last year’s October half-term break.