A few years ago, the Vital Signs Report from the Community Foundation discovered that One in Five children in Milton Keynes live in poverty. Reading this shocking statistic propelled St Marks into action and has become for them a focal point of their ministry. One problem faced by many families struggling financially is known as “Holiday hunger”. Children who rely on their school for Breakfast and Lunch during term time find themselves going hungry during the school holidays. Families suddenly have more mouths to feed, more meals required, and no extra money to make this possible.

Initially starting in just Greenleys Junior school, St Mark’s provided a hot meal to 12 children in October Half-Term 2015. Pupils were invited to attend, and bring their families, for a delicious lunch, along with some craft and play activities and a cup of tea and chat for all adults.

Since then, the project has grown, expanding to operate in Greenleys, Fishermead, Netherfield and Simpson.
Volunteers have joined the team from across the city and the lunches have been supported by the Community Foundation, donations from supermarkets and Foodbank. One lunch venue is staffed entirely by a team from the Open University.

This February saw an increase in what was possible. Joining with MK food bank and Lantmannen bakers, we were able to offer Hot lunches on two days a week, and on each occasion also provide a ‘Meal Deal’ style bag full of bread, soup, biscuits, fruit, cereal, juice and milk to provide lunch and breakfast for a family on half-term dates during which Make Lunch wasn’t open. All this meant that we were able to provide an amazing 710 lunches.

The need is still massive, with more schools wanting to open kitchens as they are so aware of the difficulties some of their families are experiencing. Teachers are regularly buying and providing food for children arriving at school hungry, and Headteachers are well aware of just how much the education of a child suffers when chronic hunger is an issue.

We know that this is just the start and believe this to be an area where the church can take a lead across Milton Keynes in providing for, and caring for children.

Paul Oxley
St Mark’s MK

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