With many families struggling to make ends meet and over 20,000 children living in poverty in Suffolk alone, why are holiday periods in particular a time when many Suffolk children are in danger of going hungry?

East and West Suffolk’s Clinical Commissioning Group have created an Emergency Food Fund in partnership with Suffolk Community Foundation (SCF), which has already awarded over £65,000 to 10 local food banks and other voluntary organisations involved in feeding hungry people in Suffolk, including: 

  • Aspect Living Foundation
  • Caribbean and African Community Health Support for Ipswich
  • Catch 22
  • Chapman Centre Trust
  • FIND (Families in Need) Ltd
  • New Life Church (Suffolk) 
  • Whitton Youth Partnership 
  • Gatehouse Caring in West Suffolk
  • REACH Community Projects
  • Suffolk West Citizens Advice Bureau 

Together with other funding from private donors and local businesses, the aim is to tackle the issue together.

In recent years, we have become more aware of the existence of foodbanks and the support they give, although many would still be surprised to know that currently there are over 50 emergency food providers in Suffolk, feeding thousands of people of all ages. What most people do not consider is that while children are fed a statutory school dinner during term time, it is holiday periods where children often go hungry for days on end.

Dr Juno Jesuthasan, a GP with a practice in central Ipswich, highlighted the importance of this project on a half-term visit to The Whitton Youth Partnership. ‘This year, the CCG’s have put in various transformation projects to give back to the locality with Chief Officer Ed Garratt and his team really wanting to maximise efforts to address the statistic that almost 28% of children living in Ipswich are living below the poverty line. As part of our alliance working strategy, organisations working together can achieve far more than working in silos.’

The Whitton Youth partnership is at the sharp end – situated at the heart of a community that suffers from these challenges more acutely than most.

‘It’s an ongoing situation,’ explains volunteer Jim Manning, Secretary of the Whitton Youth Partnership. ‘It’s been so good to welcome Dr Juno and some of SCF’s donors and team to see our project live in action today. Not all our young people are hungry, but especially during the half term holiday, with no access to food at school, we do see hunger on the increase.’

Ray Boggis, Chairman of the Whitton Youth Partnership, also a volunteer, adds, ‘One particular child was coming to the counter at the end of the sessions to stock up on biscuits, showing that they are often thinking about where their next meal is going to come from. We simply can’t allow children to wait for days on end for their next proper meal to arrive.’

SCF’s Head of Grant Programmes Andrea Pittock says, ‘In the past we may have considered funding any elements of food or refreshment as ‘nice to have extras’ for a community-based project. The need has now changed so dramatically, that we now need to consider this more seriously as an element to our donor grantmaking activity.’

Emma and Gale prefer to support local charities anonymously via the Foundation, but enjoy seeing the results of the projects they fund, like The Whitton Youth Partnership. Gale says, ‘your money goes so much further when it comes to a project like this.’

‘Seeing the children taking responsibility for sharing food and drinks, or making up the fruit kebabs, shows they are learning everlasting life skills, as well as receiving the nutrition they need right now,’ adds Emma.

Summer Talbot volunteers at the project while at university, but she attended the youth club when she was younger too. She explains, ‘these types of projects are essential for young people. We provide food for them which is great, but also it’s a chance for them to learn a bit more about what they are eating.’

Andy Fell, a Youth Worker at the project, agrees. ‘Even just making pizzas. They love doing that, but what it also does is build a skill set; they’re talking about what they’re putting on it, learning about the food, and we all sit down together to eat which helps build that family approach. It’s a whole package that’s adding to the child’s development’, he explains.

SCF’s Head of Public Affairs Tim Holder says, ‘We hear time and again from the voluntary sector that they know what they need to do, but to do it they need more resource and more money. We’re so delighted to see our local Clinical Commissioning Groups harnessing the power of volunteers. When you support many hours of volunteering with donations from private individuals and businesses, we really have got the making of a team that will help us to make sure that no child in Suffolk goes hungry.’

Learn more about the Emergency Food Fund here

Photography credits : Simon Lee 

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