Two sisters from Gillingham have set up a new club to help provide free meals over half-term for local school pupils who need them.
Lucy Boe and her sister Amanda sprang into action after hearing that the government had voted against extending free school meals beyond term time despite a high-profile campaign by England football star Marcus Rashford.
With the help of local businesses, associations and individuals the pair are hoping to provide the free meals to youngsters who need them from this Monday 26 October via their Gillingham Half Term Kids’ Lunch Club. They originally planned to cover Gillingham only, but due to the response, have extended the lunch service to Shaftesbury too.
Lucy, 33, from Shaftesbury Road, Gillingham, said: ‘I feel like now is the time for communities to come together. There is real power in numbers and there are just so many people who want to help.
‘I was so disappointed to hear the government’s decision and it comes at a time when families are struggling the most. No matter what, kids should NOT be going hungry. I grew up on free school meals, with my sister,and without them, we would have been in a far worse situation.’
Lucy said she and Amanda would be offering three different lunches so that parents have a choice. ‘One meat-free, one dairy-free and one standard, this will include sandwiches, a sweet treat, crisps, fruit and a juice carton in each,’ she said – see the menu below.
‘We have set up a Facebook group so parents can keep up to date with what’s on offer.’
Lucy explained : ‘We will be putting up the three different lunches on our Facebook page on Sunday afternoon and anyone that wants one can message me your requests and whether you want to collect or have them delivered – please include your address. They will be with you on Monday morning and then so on though the week.
‘If you have already messaged me, message again on Sunday as well with your specific requests and we will sort it for you. You can message on Sunday and request for the whole week as well.’
She added: ‘There’s no need for proof of entitlement and there’s no judgement.’
The sisters say they have been bowled over by the support they have received, in particular from Waitrose whom Lucy said had been ‘amazing’. She said the Freemasons in Shaftesbury have offered £150 in Waitrose vouchers, Abbotts greengrocers in Shaftesbury has offered to provide the paper bags to put the lunches in, and they have had ‘countless’ individuals offer donations and money – which they have asked be given in supermarket vouchers instead – and have raised over £300 in vouchers so far.
‘We have had many offers of help to deliver for those that need it too. The Sunflower cafe in Gillingham has also offered to contribute,’ sad Lucy. ‘Any surplus food will be distributed between charities and people in need. We are thinking ahead to Christmas, if the government doesn’t change its mind on free meals, families will be in a much more desperate time over the Christmas period.’
Contact Lucy and Amanda via their Facebook page.