Today we are calling on the Government to do more to help vulnerable youngsters and their families as it launches its Summer Support for Kids campaign to tackle holiday hunger.
We are kicking off our annual drive to collect vital food items to support those impacted by holiday hunger and, for the first time, we are urging people to donate items such as arts, crafts and school supplies to help kids with their school work and keep them occupied during the summer months.
We will also be donating £100,000 to its food redistribution partner FareShare Midlands who will be providing food and resources to children over the summer months, plus they will also be campaigning to see a change in Government policy to provide better support for those in need.
On average, FareShare Midlands says it costs around £1.80 to create a healthy and nutritious meal for a child. This would mean the six-figure donation could provide over 50,000 meals during the coming months.
Research by FareShare Midlands, based on local authority statistics, has revealed that across the 16 counties Central England Co-op trades 1,163,134 children are currently living in poverty and face being impacted by holiday hunger - only 25% of which are actually accessing any kind of support such as free school meal vouchers reinforcing the call that more needs to be done to help.
Debbie Robinson, Central England Co-operative Chief Executive, said: “We have now been working with our food bank partners to try and combat holiday hunger for many years, yet we continue to see demand for food bank support spike as what they now offer has sadly become a permanent solution rather than an emergency response.
“We all want to get to a point where we do not have to rely on the generosity of our members and customers to ensure children do not go hungry every single summer and this is why today we are calling on the Government to urgently address this problem and put an end to holiday hunger. Free school meals and vouchers are great but not enough.
“We now need more change from the Government before it is too late to support the near 900,000 young people in our area who fall outside the current support system.
“However, in the meantime, communities at the heart of our mission are continuing to suffer and this is why we are urgently launching our Summer Support for Kids appeal.
“We are asking people to donate food and, for the first time, items such as arts, crafts and stationery to keep kids entertained this summer and help them get ready to return to school - any donation will make an ever-lasting impact for those in need.
“I would also like to thank all of our customers and members as when you shop with us, we then generate the funds necessary to support initiatives like FareShare to operate, specifically supporting children and families who live in the community around your local co-op.”
The appeal will run from now until September and all customers and members have to do is drop items off in special collection points located in every store.
Items that can be donated include shopping basket staples from tea, sugar and cereals to other essentials such as toiletries and hygiene products. Also, food banks have requested drinks for children, as well as vital sun cream and after sun.
For the first time this year other items needed include small arts and crafts items such as crayons and paints, as well as school supplies such as pencil cases and stationery.
We have been running our summer campaign to tackle holiday hunger for the past two years, resulting in over 300,000 donations and nearly 80,000 packages of food and essentials being handed out.
Our stores have permanent food bank collection points all year round, and we work with over 60 different food banks to provide emergency food and support to individuals and families in crisis throughout the year.