DCC turned down food bank for meal funding because it didn't also provide "entertainment"

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DCC turned down food bank for meal funding because it didn't also providing "entertainment"

Kingsbridge Food Bank was turned down for funding for feeding children over Easter because they weren’t also providing “entertainment”. 

Gerrie Messer, Kingsbridge Food Bank organiser, said: “We have been providing lunches for children over the school holidays when they don’t have access to their school lunches. For the last two years we have received funding from Devon County Council to cover half of our costs, but this year we were refused. 

“We usually include games or activities in the holiday packages, but because of the cost of living increasing, we have seen an increase in the number of families we are supporting. This meant we have been focussing on getting them fed, but we have also included basic things like books, games and sunflower seeds for the kids to grow.”

Gerrie explained that she provides the meals in partnership with Portlemouth Pasties. Pete and Heather Roberts cook homemade meals that can then just be popped into the microwave and cooked - reducing the need to use the oven and allowing children to feed themselves. 

She also added that a lot of the organised activities in the area are centred in Kingsbridge, meaning many of the children she and her team support wouldn’t be able to access them anyway. 

“Some families are still shielding or are isolating”, Gerrie explained, “As this cost of living crisis deepens, many of our clients have already been making choices between heating or eating and fuelling the car. Combined meal provision and activities are a great idea for children who live in the two main towns - where public transport between the two is readily available - however the surrounding villages have a very irregular bus service. 

“Travelling around South Devon is already difficult enough with lengthy and unreliable bus services to Plymouth, Dartmouth, Salcombe and Modbury - all being affected by the huge increase in local and visiting traffic during the holidays.”

She added: “In following the ‘[Department for Education] criteria’ DCC are putting more emphasis on the children learning rather than eating. Food is essential for any kind of learning and to keep the child alive. Children spend time with their parents, grandparents and other friends and families during the school holidays. 

“The knowledge and education they receive in these circumstances is often just as or more important than attending activity clubs. They have already missed out on two years of restriction of free travel and for so many this is the first opportunity to catch up with people they haven’t seen in so long. 

“The meals we have provided are ‘portable’ for want of a better word. They are home-cooked and contain nutritious ingredients. Perhaps it would be more acceptable to DCC if children were to be in school for 50 weeks of the year - only having one week off each at Easter and Christmas.”

A spokesman for Devon County Council said: “Offering nutritional hot lunches alongside enriching activities for young people is the government’s condition to be eligible for their funding, and having approached a large number of ‘activity with hot meal’ providers across Devon, we were overwhelmed with the response from charities, local groups and organisations.  

“Unfortunately, only providing food cannot be funded through this particular scheme.”

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