Liverpool’s summer lunch scheme feeds thousands of children

A scheme devised to support vulnerable families over the summer holidays has provided up to 30,000 meals for children in need.

Mayor of Liverpool Joe Anderson’s Summer Lunch Club ran for the six-week summer holidays at children’s centres, community centres and other venues and aimed to provide children with a nutritious meal each weekday.

The project aimed to provide children with a nutritious meal each weekday while the schools were closed.

Mayor of Liverpool Joe Anderson invested £50,000 from the Mayor’s Hope Fund into the scheme and enlisted the aid of local social enterprises and volunteers to deliver the food and activities.

The sessions were free for anyone to attend but were particularly targeted at families who have been hit with delays and reductions in their benefit payments due to changes to the welfare system such as Universal Credit.

The ultimate aim was to ensure that children did not go hungry during the summer holidays and could return to school ready to learn.

In south Liverpool, Garston-based community interest company Can Cook was tasked with providing 500 hot meals a day to supply 11 playgroups and activity sessions.

While in the north of the city, Gourmet Social Enterprise recruited a network of volunteers, including many council staff members, to provide packed lunches at children’s centres and the council’s Lifestyles leisure centres.

The Summer Lunch Club builds on the work the council and its partners does all year round to provide children with food during all school holidays.

The council now plans to build on the initiative through the Mayor’s Inclusive Growth Fund.

Cabinet members recently approved a plan to earmark £200,000 to help devise a sustainable food strategy for the city. This will include setting up a series of food collection points and community pantries across the city that will be used to support people and families facing extreme hardship.

Mayor of Liverpool Joe Anderson, who recently called for a 20 per cent uplift in benefits to mitigate the impact of Brexit on the poorest, said: “The stark reality is that austerity is starving our children and putting food on the table is now becoming a mission impossible for the most vulnerable members of our community.

“It is a travesty that people in this city continue to be hit so hard by cuts to their benefits that they are unable to feed themselves or their children.

“We have seen increases in the number of people using foodbanks and people in our city facing destitution because of cuts to benefits.

“It is a further outrage that the city council has to pick up the pieces and divert already overstretched resources to provide food for people in need. However, we are not prepared to sit by and watch our children go hungry.

“The real success of the Summer Lunch Club lies in the wonderful spirit of the organisations and volunteers who could see the injustice of the situation the city faced, rolled their sleeves up and gave up their own time to pitch in and help those who needed it most. It once again illustrates how people in this city look out for each other and will not tolerate the suffering of others.

Laura Lynch Hankey, development manager at Can Cook, added: “The hard work from our amazing chefs paid off with the families and young people across south Liverpool receiving a total of 14,500 fresh meals over the summer. The numbers engaging with centres increased and the feedback was overwhelming. It was lovely to be part of such a heart-warming food dignity holiday program.