Filling the Gap
Nationally, up to three million estimated children are at risk of being hungry in the school holidays*, and for some families, the recent season of coronavirus lockdown has brought additional fear, worry and hardship, and left them facing greater adversity than ever before.
It was for this reason that in April 2020 the Diocese of Norwich ‘Filling the Gap’ project was born out of a vision from the Rt Revd Graham Usher, Bishop of Norwich to help families through the upcoming summer holidays.
Working collaboratively, colleagues from the Diocese of Norwich Education Team and Children, Youth and Families contacted the 110 Church of England schools and academies across the diocese and coordinated with headteachers who were keen to participate in the project. In each school catchment, contact was then made with the local church to find volunteers who would be willing to make weekly food deliveries to the families in their area, before headteachers went on to identify families within their school who would benefit and value being provided with food during the school summer holiday.
The project, which is grant funded, came together with the insight and support of many partners including local food banks, the Salvation Army and SOUL Foundation and meant that the model of working quickly evolved differently across the diocese depending on the number of families being provided for and the level of involvement by volunteers at local level. In total, 128 families are receiving a weekly food hamper for the six weeks of the summer holiday, together with a weekly activity bag containing craft or sporting resources to additionally address the social and physical provision for these families.
The aim was that the food hampers and activity packs would be a blessing to families – expressing our missional values and love in a very real and practical way – and the response has been of great encouragement. The Revd David Smith, Priestin- Charge, for the Raveningham & Waveney Benefices says: “We were delighted to hear from Anna about ‘Filling the Gap’ and pleased to learn that Ellingham Church of England Primary School were very keen to get involved. We’ve been able to deliver food parcels to eight families each Tuesday and it’s been great to hear just what a huge and welcome difference this has been making to the household. The families have been incredibly appreciative and always eager to explore the boxes, not least the children to find out the latest offering of crafts an fun activities to enjoy! For us as a church, and for me as a minister, it has opened doors to building pastoral relationships that may not otherwise have been made so directly and we hope to continue contact with the families in some way as well as through our close engagement with the school.”
Holiday hunger is not a new issue and sadly it is not one that is going to go away anytime soon. Therefore, it is hoped that with help, the legacy of ‘Filling the Gap’ will be that some level of support can be sustained locally to provide for the families who need it most during future holidays too.
*Hungry Holidays. A report on hunger amongst children in school holidays. Published by the All Party Parliamentary Group on Hunger.
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