TLG has been making a significant difference to hungry children across the UK for several years, but ever since schools closed and the strict lockdown measures have been in place, their Make Lunch programme is more vital than ever.
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, over 100,000 meals in more than 100 locations have been served to hungry children and their families.
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.
How is TLG adapting to the current crisis?
We have adapted all our programmes to ensure that children still receive vital support at a time when they need it more than ever, balancing the challenge of social distancing while also protecting the most vulnerable children. For our Early Intervention programme we have set up virtual coaching, for our Make Lunch clubs we are supporting our community partners to provide emergency care packages and for our Education Centres, a form of Alternative Provision, we are continuing one-to-one contact and teaching via video link.
Have you seen an increase in children and families using Make Lunch during this period, and if so, how is TLG coping with the increase?
Some of our Make Lunch clubs have received more request from schools to provide boxes of hope for additional families who need support, but who do not normally 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 run Make Lunch.
What hygiene methods are you practising to ensure child safety with food during these times?
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 carefully practice social distancing while making and delivering the parcels. We are also asking all clubs to include basic allergen advice so that families are informed to know what is contained within the products provided and what action they need to take to ensure safety if allergens exist.
How many children are benefiting from Make Lunch during the current situation?
We currently have 58 of our Make Lunch clubs set up to send these emergency care parcels, which is an estimated 747 boxes of hope, equal to one box per family. However, as we are still working through this with all 200 of our community partners, this number continues to increase.
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?
As we cannot run our Make Lunch clubs in their current format, we are sending out these emergency care parcels. Make Lunch is about more than just the food, it is about the community. So, as well as including essential food items and household essentials in our boxes, we are also including family activities, craft, messages of hope, cards and invitations to participate in local community events and online gatherings. This will mean a family still receives wellbeing support, despite not being able to gather at a location.
Is this run on a delivery or collection method?
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.
What can the general public do to support TLG’s Make Lunch during this difficult period?
The public can join us as we raise money to get these emergency care packages to 10,000 children and family members who are in desperate need. They can do this by donating via CRB Cunninghams’s ‘TLG Emergency Care Pack Appeal’ on the JustGiving platform.
Do you have any support from the government to help carry this out?
We are not currently receiving government funding for TLG Make Lunch, but we have in the past.
What advice would you give to school’s right now concerned with ensuring all pupils still at school are fed?
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.
How do you see TLG’s plans progressing during this crisis?
We are working to ensure that we can equip and enable more and more churches to get involved in serving their community and will continue to adapt our programmes for as long as the current crisis continues.
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 it most?
We rely on volunteers to run our Make Lunch clubs and are therefore subject to their capacity in what we can deliver, especially at a time 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 also flexibility for them to decide when in the Easter holidays to send the parcels depending on capacity. To ensure that finance is not an obstacle, we are offering £200 start-up funding to all clubs.
As a result of the COVID-19 crisis, TLG is working hard to urgently get emergency care packages to 10,000 children and families who are in desperate need of food and support as a result of school closures. CRB Cunninghams have set up a JustGiving page to help raise money for these packages, please visit here to donate. Whether it’s £1, £10 or more, every penny counts during these uncertain times.
Visit here to find out more about TLG’s urgent appeal and how these care packages will help struggling families.