In Poole, since returning from the enforced break caused by Covid lockdowns we have tried- through our community café – to help plug the gap in the school holidays for families who make use of the free school meal scheme.
We decided to run a "no questions asked" scheme by which we offered a free hot children's meal to children under 16, without the need for their parents to purchase anything. We didn't want to "means-test" or ask for proof of need – rather our scheme has been an open one whereby families are not embarrassed or stigmatized.
Thank you to everyone who has supported in any way our scheme of providing "paid for" meals to children in the school holidays. We know that this has helped to ease the financial burden for many families during the cost of living crisis in particular. We are grateful to the Wesley's Café team of staff, and all our volunteers for working hard to cope with some very high peaks in demand at certain points.
We are also grateful to all those who have contributed to the scheme over the past year via donations and grants – including the Circuit, individuals and individual churches, and grant-making trusts. All of the funds needed for the scheme are ring-fenced specifically for it. Nothing is taken from general church or café funds. It has to be a self-supporting scheme and so the Sea Change Board, on behalf of Poole Methodists, make a separate decision about each school holiday period – determining whether we have the funds to go ahead.
It is our hope, going forward, that we can attract the funding to make the scheme more secure and durable. We will keep you posted about this, but in the meantime let's reflect on what we have been able to do in the last year, from Summer 2022 to May half-term 2023:
Well done, Poole Methodists!
Once again Poole Methodists provided free meals for children via Wesley's Café at The Spire over the Christmas holiday period.
Between Monday 19th and Friday 23rd December 2022 we provided a total of 199 meals at a cost of £966.
We shall be running the scheme again during February Half-term, 13th-17th February 2023.
We are also pleased now to be operating under the Warm Places Initiative.
Following a concerted effort to get funds to run the free meal scheme over the summer of 2022, we were so grateful to attract funding from the Valentine Trust, Methodist churches in the Bournemouth part of our Circuit, as well as ongoing donations from individual members of Poole Methodists. We were therefore able to go ahead and offer free meals to children for the core 6 weeks of the school holiday period, Mondays-Fridays.
Our staff and volunteers in Wesley's Café provided 543 meals to children under 10 years of age, and 276 meals to those aged 11-16. In total we provided 819 free meals! This meant a very busy summer for all working in Wesley's – well done!
This is an important part of our mission at The Spire, of which we are very proud.
We have received a lot of anecdotal feedback from families, thanking us for easing things for them during this period of tight budgets and rising cost of living.
Kate White (for Poole Methodists and Sea Change)