Serving up hot and healthy summer meals at Hay Hill Baptist
As the autumn term gets underway, the summer holidays may seem like a distant memory. But for Hay Hill Baptist Church in Bath, there is plenty to celebrate as they look back on running MakeLunch, a community project set up to fill the holiday hunger gap
1.2 million children in the UK are eligible for free school meals. But when school stops for the holidays, so does the food. MakeLunch supports churches to run holiday meal provision which fills this gap for families at risk of going hungry outside of term time. Ninety-three churches now run MakeLunch and more than 56,000 meals have been served since the first kitchen opened their doors in 2011.
For Hay Hill Baptist Church in Bath, the recent summer holidays was their sixth time of working in partnership with other local churches to provide fun activities and nutritious food to more than 40 children. Project coordinators, Lea Lawton and Claire Henwood, have been involved from the start: ‘We wanted to start MakeLunch in Bath after hearing how many children and their families are living in poverty in our city.
'We wanted to respond practically and MakeLunch have equipped us brilliantly to do this. We run twice a week during school holidays in two areas of Bath, whose schools have the highest numbers of children receiving free school meals.'
The sessions are run by 'brilliant' volunteers and are designed to be fun and engaging for primary-aged children, their siblings and parents/carers. There is always games and crafts at the beginning of the session and the churches are working with local organisations to deliver other enrichment activities such as sports coaching and healthy cooking.
The sessions always finish with a "family style” meal where we all sit together to eat a hot, tasty, nutritious meal.
By partnering with MakeLunch, Hay Hill received funding, training and resources to get started. Now working with up to 30 volunteers every school holiday, its Lunch Kitchen is well established and going from strength to strength.
‘Our guest families are starting to open up to us and relationships are developing between guests and volunteers,' said Lea. 'One guest said that MakeLunch really helped her this summer, knowing that she and her children could get out of the house twice a week to somewhere safe and fun.
'We're hoping to develop the enrichment activities we offer to our guests to put on a really enjoyable event. We want to open another day a week in a different part of Bath to reach more children and their families.
'MakeLunch is a great opportunity for the church across the city to work together to serve our community and practically demonstrate the love of Jesus.’
As is the case in Bath, for many families, it’s not just the food for the children that makes this such a vital support in the holidays. In a report by Kellogg’s, 1 in 3 parents from low-income families have skipped a meal so their children can eat in the school holidays(1).
Hannah, Network Development Coordinator at MakeLunch, has been hearing encouraging stories from across the network this summer that highlight how MakeLunch projects are helping parents too.
'One church found that the adults who came with the kids were benefiting just as much; they said “It was as if the two hours spent with us re-charged their batteries”’.
Images | MakeLunch
There is lots to celebrate at each of the MakeLunch projects across the UK, just like at Hay Hill. But there will be communities too where holiday hunger is a reality and no provision exists. Could your church open their doors to families in the school holidays and fill the holiday hunger gap?
1 ‘Isolation and Hunger: the impact of the school holidays on struggling families’, Kellogg’s, 2015
MakeLunch is a great way for churches to connect with their local school, parents in their community and kids who otherwise might go hungry. If you’d like to find out more about how you can work with MakeLunch, get in touch with Hannah (firstname.lastname@example.org) or visit makelunch.org.uk.