Central England Co-operative has launched an appeal to combat holiday hunger in its trading area, where 350,000 children are living in poverty.
Until 15 September, the retailer is hosting special collection points in all of its local stores, and encouraging customers and members to donate items from a list drawn up with the help of local food bank partners.
In May, data collated by the End Child Poverty coalition and researchers from Loughborough University confirmed families in the society’s trading area are struggling to feed their children during the summer holidays, when they have to make up for loss of free school meals.
Central England’s CEO Debbie Robinson said: “We have worked closely with our food bank partners to come up with a special campaign during the summer months to try and help combat the issue of holiday hunger.
“Our Summer Food Bank Appeal will run from July to September and today we are appealing to our customers and members to support us and help make a real and positive impact in their local area.
“We are asking for people to drop off as many items as they can into our food bank collection points in our stores and play a part in making a real difference to children and families.”
Customers can donate shopping basket staples from tea, sugar and cereals to other essentials such as toiletries and hygiene products. Last year, the retailer’s Summer Food Bank Appeal saw 141,000 items donated, creating enough food to help feed over 35,000 children and families.
A 2017 parliamentary report found that the loss of free school meals over the summer holiday led to households having to spend an extra £30 to £40 per week, with an estimated one million children at risk of going hungry.
The Trussell Trust, which supports more than 1,200 food banks across the country, expects demand exceed last year’s record of 87,496 food parcels during the summer holidays.
Petra Parka, from South Derbyshire CVS, a voluntary sector development agency based in Swadlincote, said: “During the school holidays the provision of free school meals for many children stops and families experience additional financial burden on already stretched budgets. This can result in children and parents going hungry.
“We are delighted to be working with Central England Co-op and supporting the Summer Food Bank Appeal to combat holiday hunger.
“We would ask people, if they can, to donate some items during the campaign. This will make a huge difference to help food banks ensure that children and their families don’t go hungry this summer.”
Central England has permanent food bank collection points in hundreds of its stores all year, and works with 50 different food banks to provide emergency food and support to individuals and families in crisis throughout the year.