Make Lunch Rugby: Summer 2021
Families who qualify for Free School Meals (over 50% of pupils in some local Rugby primary schools) often experience hunger and isolation during the school holidays. The children miss the term time Free School Meals, families can become socially isolated and the evidence is that the parents also go hungry as they struggle to feed the children. This is a national issue; many families, even when one or both parents work, have such low incomes that their children qualify for Free School Meals.
Make Lunch Rugby was launched in Rugby by St Matthews and St Oswald’s church in the spring half term holiday, May 2017, with the aim of supporting such families with children at primary schools in the parish. Oakfield Primary Academy initially partnered with Make Lunch, offering their premises as the venue.
Make Lunch is part of a national movement under the auspices of the Christian charity Transforming Lives for Good (TLG), https://www.tlg.org.uk/ which enables churches to work in education settings across the country to make a huge difference to the life chances of children.
Many Make Lunch venues were set up by churches long before the problem gained national publicity by high profile campaigners like footballer Marcus Rashford. His campaigning has helped by putting pressure on Government. That in turn has released funds for groups like Make Lunch, but so far has not managed to achieve any change in the underlying problem of families living in poverty.
Make Lunch Rugby works in partnership with three local primary schools in the St Matthews and St Oswald’s parish. They all have a high number of families who qualify for Free School Meals. The schools recommend families to register for Make Lunch; they are then invited to come along to a twice weekly lunch club in the school holidays, in one of the schools. There they can enjoy a good healthy meal together and join in fun activities both indoors and outside.
Prior to the covid pandemic, Make Lunch served between 60- 80 meals each time, and families were able to relax, have fun, play games and enjoy craft activities together. Families told us that Make Lunch was ‘a Godsend!’ helping them cope with the school holidays.
Between March 2020 and summer 2021, when Make Lunch couldn’t meet due to Covid restrictions, Make Lunch volunteers, working with Rugby Food Bank, and supported by grant funding, delivered food bags to up to 45 families each week of every school holiday. That’s two meals for each family during those 15 weeks of the school holiday, a total of 1350+ family meals, probably feeding over 4,000 parents and children, as each family had recipes and ingredients sufficient for the whole family for two full meals.
In getting to this point, Make Lunch Rugby initially benefitted from set up funding from St Matthews and St Oswald’s church, Coventry Diocese, one or two other groups and many individuals. Subsequently, Make Lunch has been supported with groceries from Rugby Food Bank and ASDA, and with meat from Joseph Morris Butchers and fresh fruit and vegetables from Martin’s at Kingsway at reduced prices. Financial grants have been received from Transforming Lives for Good (Make Lunch), Rugby Borough and local Warwickshire County Councillors, the Government’s Holiday Activity Fund, TESCO, Heart of England Coop, Rugby Indian Association and ASDA Foundation amongst others, and from individuals across the town.
During summer 2021, Make Lunch has returned to the in-person lunch club, this summer at St Matthews Bloxam Primary School. Uptake has been slower than we had hoped but those who have come have thoroughly enjoyed themselves!
It’s summed up by one Mum who sent this message to the Make Lunch volunteers in the middle of the summer holiday,
“My kids ask almost daily if it's "make lunch" day and love to try and work out what fun activities you have in store for them. They look forward to coming, everyone is so friendly and lovely, and it is a massive help...not only feeding them, but to have the opportunity to speak to other adults! We truly appreciate everything you guys do.”
It will take a while to re-engage with some of the families. Many of them have only experienced the delivery of Make Lunch food bags, so coming along to a lunch club is a BIG hurdle! Warwickshire County Council has also offered events (but no food) at venues around the town (eg. The Beach at the Clock Tower) which have clashed with Make Lunch, and some families are still hesitant to meet up after the pandemic.
We have two volunteer teams; the catering team cooks healthy meals, and the activities team plans and runs lots of fun activities. Some volunteers do both at different times. Whilst St Matthews and St Oswald’s Church initiated Make Lunch, volunteers come from a range of Rugby churches, and from the wider local community. We currently have 4 local Councillors as part of our teams! We are working to re-engage families and rebuild their confidence to meet up again. We are now planning for Make Lunch in future school holidays to support families who experience ‘holiday hunger’.
If you’d like more information about getting involved, email firstname.lastname@example.org and someone from the Steering Group will get back to you!
Alison Farnell, Make Lunch Rugby Coordinator
On behalf of the Make Lunch Steering Group (Jackie Harborne, Gail Heslop, Debbie Spademan, Nicola Townsend Kennedy & Nicky Walker)