Local children’s food charity celebrates 5 years of impact in Milton Keynes

    St Mark’s Meals, that helps children who are hungry to access a meal at home, is marking its 5th anniversary this Easter by launching a brand new recipe, offering more choices to children who are living with food poverty.

    A sizzling sausage hotpot, has now been added to the mix of existing recipe kits. Children can choose the new recipe or one of the existing ones, a chickpea curry, a tuna and sweetcorn pasta, a veggie bolognese, or a taco kit. Many schools also store the kettle box - for families without cooking facilities.

    St Mark’s Meals began in 2019 after Reverend Paul Oxley visited a local school and met primary school children who were arriving at school hungry, having had nothing to eat since the school lunch they had been given the previous day. Schools were providing breakfasts for the children, and free school lunches to those eligible.

    “We realised that many children didn’t get a meal in the evening and we thought we could help” said Rev Paul. “Our mission is that ‘no MK child should need to go to bed hungry’ and thanks to the incredible support from local schools and the generosity of local people we have spent five years making food available to hungry children when they need it most. It is an odd thing to consider celebrating the news that half a decade on, there is still a need to feed hungry children in our city.

    “We are incredibly thankful that we have been able to work with such excellent schools and to grow a small army of volunteers and supporters who give money or time to ensure children go to bed able to dream of becoming astronauts, rather than worrying about their rumbling tummies. But the flip side of that story is that thousands of young children are still going without dinner each and every day. We want a city where that is not the reality for so many young lives, and in the meantime will work hard to ensure that dinner is always able to be served.”Rev Paul also runs MK Child Poverty Partnership, bringing together many organisations to eradicate child poverty in Milton Keynes.

    St Mark’s Meals initially created five separate recipe kit boxes using long-life ingredients and containing a recipe card with instructions to help cook a healthy meal. They started distributing these to three local schools, who immediately saw how beneficial they were to struggling families within the community. The pandemic and the cost-of-living crisis had a huge impact on local families and more and more school staff are continuing to look for a way to help their children.

    Now, the charity supports 115 local schools and children’s centres, with connections across the city. This means that a child in need of support is never far away from a teacher or member of staff who can help them by giving a Meals box for the family that night. The new recipe box will give children the dignity of choice, leaving them feeling more capable and cared for by their community.

    Last year, the team at St Mark’s Meals created, packed and delivered more than 6,000 Meals boxes. This put 24,000 plates of dinner on the table in the homes of the most vulnerable children in the city.

    Rachel Fielding, who manages the operation in Milton Keynes says, “Right now, we know that 30% of children in Milton Keynes are living in poverty. That’s about 9 children in a classroom of 30 *. We give away thousands of dinner kit boxes each year to children who are experiencing food poverty. Teachers and school staff can give a box to any child and their family whenever they notice that a pupil isn’t having food at home. This way the whole family can use the kit to cook a sustaining meal and the pressure of hunger and worry is relieved for a little while.”

    “We are incredibly grateful to the staff at all of our partner schools and children’s centres. They are the ones who spot when children need help and are able to offer them a meal to take home. We couldn’t do any of this without their support and the generosity of our donors and fundraisers. It’s overwhelming to see how much the local community has got behind us over the past five years, to help us deliver this simple solution to alleviate child food poverty”

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