TLG has been making a significant difference to hungry children across the UK for several years, but their Make Lunch programme is more vital than ever since schools closed and the strict lockdown measures have been in place.
Many children in the UK rely on free school meals, which is why TLG’s Make Lunch programme equips churches to provide children and families who would otherwise go hungry with free, hot and healthy meals during the school holidays and tackles the issue of child hunger.
Since the Make Lunch clubs began, hungry children and families in more than 100 locations have received over 100,000 meals.
Despite many schools remaining open to children of vital workers, children who rely on free school dinners and whose parents don’t fall under that category are at risk of going hungry during this period of uncertainty. To find out how TLG is tackling this issue, we’ve spoken to Steph Walker, their Key Relationships Manager, to discuss how the charity is adapting to the COVID-19 crisis.
Q: How is TLG adapting to the current crisis?
A: We have adapted our programmes to ensure that children still receive vital support when they need it more than ever, balancing the challenge of social distancing while protecting the most vulnerable children.
For our Early Intervention programme, we have set up virtual coaching. For our Make Lunch clubs, we support our community partners to provide emergency care packages. Furthermore, we continue one-to-one contact and teaching via video link for our Education Centres, a form of Alternative Provision.
Q: Have you seen an increase in children and families using Make Lunch during this period? If so, how has TLG coped with the rise?
A: Some of our Make Lunch clubs have received more requests from schools to provide boxes of hope for additional families who need support but do not usually attend Make Lunch clubs.
Also, some of our Early Intervention partners have approached us about delivering boxes of hope to meet the needs they see in their communities, so we are seeing families who use a different programme to Make Lunch still requiring support. We have responded to this by launching our boxes of hope funding to include community partners who do not organise Make Lunch.
Q: What hygiene methods are you practising to ensure child safety with food during these times?
A: As we are sending emergency care parcels, rather than running our usual Make Lunch clubs, we are not providing meals or hosting gatherings but simply delivering packaged food. We have advised volunteers to practice social distancing while carefully making and delivering the parcels.
We also ask all clubs to include essential allergen advice so that families know what is within the products provided and what action they need to take to ensure safety if allergens exist.
Q: How many children benefit from Make Lunch during the current situation?
A: We currently have 58 Make Lunch clubs set up to send these emergency care parcels, an estimated 747 boxes of hope, equal to one package per family. However, as we are still working through this with all 200 community partners, this number has increased.
Q: Make Lunch typically centres around bringing children and families together at local churches, so how is TLG providing their vital service whilst adhering to the current social distancing rules?
A: We send out these emergency care parcels as we cannot run our Make Lunch clubs in their current format. Make Lunch is about more than just the food; it is about the community.
As well as including essential food items and household essentials in our boxes, we also have family activities, crafts, messages of hope, cards and invitations to participate in local community events and online gatherings. These offerings mean a family still receives wellbeing support, despite not gathering at a location.
Q: Are these emergency parcels run via delivery or collection?
A: We have allowed each club to decide whether to run a delivery or collection, depending on their capacity. However, as restrictions have tightened, we are actively recommending delivery where possible.
Q: What can the general public do to support TLG’s Make Lunch during this challenging period?
A: The public can join us to raise money to get these emergency care packages to 10,000 children and family members in desperate need. They can do this by donating via CRB Cunninghams’s TLG Emergency Care Pack Appeal on the JustGiving platform.
Q: Do you have any support from the government to help carry this out?
A: We are not currently receiving government funding for TLG Make Lunch, but we have in the past.
Q: What advice would you give to schools right now concerned with ensuring all pupils still at school are fed?
A: We would advise schools to contact their local community groups, churches and charities to see what is available in their area to offer to families who need support.
Q: How do you see TLG’s plans progressing during this crisis?
A: We are working to ensure that we can equip and enable more and more churches to serve their community and continue to adapt our programmes for as long as the current crisis continues.
Q: The Easter holidays are one of the busiest for TLG. What measures are you putting in place to ensure you’re getting meals to the children that need them most?
A: We rely on volunteers to run our Make Lunch clubs and are subject to their capacity to deliver, especially when many people are ill or vulnerable.
We are giving our community partners the flexibility to deliver or offer collection for their packages where it helps with capacity (though strongly encouraging delivery) and flexibility for them to decide when in the Easter holidays to send the parcels depending on ability. To ensure that finance is not an obstacle, we offer £200 start-up funding to all clubs.
Due to COVID-19 and school closures, TLG is working hard to urgently deliver emergency care packages to 10,000 children and families in desperate need of food and support. CRB Cunninghams have set up a JustGiving page to help raise money for these packages; please visit CRB Cunningham's JustGiving page to donate, whether it’s £1, £10 or more, every penny counts during these uncertain times.
Visit TLG's website to learn more about the urgent appeal and how these care packages help struggling families.