Cost of Living: School ‘pantry cupboards’ a lifeline for families on low incomes

A school in Basingstoke is going the extra mile and supporting its parents and students through a food pantry cupboard.

The Costello School provides food and essential supplies to lower income families through a scheme, funded by charity MCKS.

Parents and students access the pantry by speaking to school staff, allowing them to get roughly £30 of food for free.

They can also get fresh fruit and vegetables thanks to the Basingstoke Community Food Link, which collects out of date food from supermarket chains and distributes them to those in need.

Food inflation jumped to 5.6% in June, putting further pressure on already struggling families.

Emma Francis, whose daughter is a student at Costello, says the pantry means her family can survive.

“It is tough with everything rising – electricity, gas… everything,” she said.

“Wages don’t seem to be going up – everything is increasing apart from our salary. Without this we probably wouldn’t survive as well as we do.

“It is a very good support system the school has.” The idea for the pantry was formed during lockdown, when teachers at the school created food parcels for vulnerable families.

Clare Seddon, an assistant head teacher, told ITV News Meridian: “We have quite a lot of families where we know they are not quite on the pupil premium scale, but they are on that next level above.

“They don’t necessarily get the support [others do] and through our work we hope to attract more families so they can access these great facilities.”

Head Student Karen Madhombiro helps restock the pantry each week and got involved after seeing others struggle.

“We’ve been seeing a lot of struggles, and normally people are easy to spread the awareness and not act upon it, so I think by us acting upon it we have put a step forward into resolving the issues.”

Fellow head student Lauren Parkes added: “We had students who were coming into school that were less fortunate and needed the help, so we thought why not get involved and help out where we can?

“We know that it is difficult at the moment, especially with energy bills, so we are just here to help out anyone who needs it.”

The Costello School was approached by MCKS Charitable Foundation, who offered to provide £100 of groceries each week, as the project grew.

MCKS pays for all products at retail price, meaning it is limited on how many schools it can support.

However, chairman Les Flitcroft said the charity has ambitious plans to support over 100 in just a years time, but this won’t be possible without support from the public and corporate companies.

It is hoping to partner with supermarket chains and corporate companies to create a funding model, which will be sustainable and ensure that it can deliver vital food for the vulnerable.

“The children are our future,” Les said.

“If they are going hungry and the families can’t provide for them then they aren’t going to learn so well.”


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