Evidence shows that 400,000 children in London are unable to access enough nutritious food, and the long summer holidays are estimated to result in weeks of learning loss for some children through a combination of social isolation, low levels of stimulation and activity, and poor diet. In a survey of primary teachers, nearly three quarters said that their pupils’ learning was affected by holiday hunger.

Lunchbox Library is a programme supported by Together Southwark through churches to alleviate holiday hunger and reduce social isolation and learning loss among children from low-income families. We have successfully run the programme with churches and community groups since 2016. Lunchbox Library offers a combination of hot lunch, fun activities and reading for fun with the children, which helps prevent the trend for children’s reading skills to dip over the holidays. For many of these children, that food tends to be their only hot meal of the day. So, it has been hearbreaking to see parents pack bags of apples and pears in prams to fill up stomachs in the evening when children would feel hungry again.

Last year, our Lunchbox Library projects received grants through a collaboration between Together Southwark and Kitchen Social, Lambeth Council and Southwark Council

Kitchen Social, which is a Mayor’s Fund for London’s programme addressing holiday hunger and the two councils had joined forces and won a bid from the Department of Education to launch a Holiday Activities and Food programme, HAF, in the two boroughs. Hence, working in partnership with the programme made a major difference in the number of children who could be reached by Lunchbox Library. That is why, when this year the government announced that the programme would be extended to all local authorities in England for 2021 due to its very positive impact on children and their families in 2020,  we saw an opportunity to work with churches to extend the support across the Diocese.

There have been some changes to make projects Covid-secure. In short, in the school holidays (preferably at least one day a week) a church would need to have access to:

  • Referral partners such as schools, foodbanks and family centres
  • A suitable, accessible space (e.g. school, church hall)
  • 3-5 volunteers to distribute pre-packed food (cooked by catering partners) and organise activities.

Deadlines for submitting grant application forms for this summer holiday are approaching in most local authorities but there is still a window of time to prepare an application.

Hence, if this is an area of support your church has thought about engaging in in the past, this could be the time to take a leap of faith. Together Southwark is available to work with your church, including through reviewing your grant application. For more information to engage in the programme this summer, please contact [email protected]