Feeding hungry children in Runnymede
Earlier this week the resident’s Network highlighted the work being done in Surrey Heath to make sure families in difficulty could ensure their children were fed during the October school holiday. Similar work has been going on across the county by community-spirited volunteers. This is the story of the incredible community spirit in the Chertsey led by Flavia Gray.
Traditionally, October half term is a time I look forward to taking my kids somewhere warm to get a final dose of vitamin D before the winter sets in.
This year my Facebook feed has been full of my own and others’ memories of previous years’ holidays and comments conveying their longing to be able to travel freely again.
As a resident of Chertsey, a newly elected school parent governor and a supporter of the wider Runnymede community I couldn’t stand by while some of our neediest children went hungry over the half-term break.
Together with other volunteers and with the support of local businesses, I lead a community effort to ensure that no child goes hungry this half term.
Whilst many of us can feed our children from our resources or with the help already available from central government, the impact of the Covid pandemic means that others are not so lucky. Many hard-working families face job loss as the economic impact of the pandemic bites, and I am pleased to be able to showcase the strength of our local community in reaching out to support them.
On Monday I announced on our local Facebook page that I would be making sandwiches for children while our local council was working behind the scenes to arrange meals for children during the half term, who usually have free school meals.
I asked the residents for donations of fruit, and other packed lunch treats and for those in need to get in touch.
Rev Tim Hillier kindly offered the use of St Peter’s church hall although not needed in the end. The manager of Chertsey Barnardo’s, Sandra Cooling, kindly allowed me to operate out of the shop as I usually volunteer there on a Monday. I made the sandwiches early in the morning at home whilst people were dropping off donations. James Murphy, generously donated £30 towards the bits needed to make the sandwiches.
Feeding hungry children in Runnymede
I had a phenomenal response to my post on Facebook for donations. Here are just some of the wonderful comments:
“Where do I deliver wrapped choc bars, cakes and cereal bars on Tuesday? Sainsburys (Walton-on-Thames) has kindly donated to this worthwhile cause.”
“Thank you so much for everything you are doing to help others in our community.”
“This is a beautiful sight. And it’s so nice to see a few treats in there too.”
“There is enough food for everyone when we share & help one another. Well done, Flavia for loving others.”
“How wonderful to literally see the community spirit in Chertsey!”
“This woman is amazing drives around a collects food for kids who have none u really are a superstar”
In the end, it was not just for those in receipt of free school meals, because single parents with pre-schoolers were also in need of help as are those who have found themselves in difficult circumstances.
Soldiers Sailors and National Reserve got involved with feeding hungry children in Runnymede by making packed lunches for children at Chertsey high school every morning, and other families were able to collect a packed lunch between 11 and 12 each day. I contacted Crystal at the club and said I could hand out any lunches left over.
So Monday was a busy day taking in donations, preparing meals, taking messages from people in need of help and delivering food to them – all whilst observing appropriate social distancing and covid hygiene.
Tuesday’s offering was generously donated and prepared by Beth Jones, a chef with a catering business. Beth cooked a delicious spaghetti bolognese with homemade garlic bread.
By Wednesday, Runnymede Borough Council had made provision for hot meal deliveries, and I posted information on how to obtain the meals on social media and sent direct messages those I had been in contact with.
There was still plenty of food left, so I distributed ten more bags to local families and gave two large bags to the White Lodge Centre in Chertsey which was put to good use by the team there.