Helping prevent holiday hunger in our communities
Over one in four families (26%) in Hartlepool are living in food poverty—one of the highest rates in England. With the half-term holidays underway, my store in the Anchor Retail Park, Hartlepool, is playing our small part in trying to help make sure no school children go hungry—thanks to our partnership with community investment platform Neighbourly
Since 2015, M&S stores up and down the country have been supporting over 1,500 local causes with surplus food donations via the Neighbourly platform. In that time, we’ve helped put more than 18 million meals on the table for those who need it most.
During the Covid pandemic, the needs of the most vulnerable in our communities have grown even greater. In response, M&S accelerated the roll-out of a new app that sits on the handheld devices we all carry in store, allowing colleagues to quickly calculate the amount of food we have available to donate and sending an automatic alert directly to our charity partners. It’s a quicker, easier and more efficient solution for everyone—and some stores have seen donations double.
For the last three and a half years, my store has been working with the Kilmarnock Road Children & Young People Family Resource Centre. Since March, thanks to the new technology, we’ve stepped up our donations providing over 6,700 meals to the charity—up by 55% compared to our pre-app donations. This half-term, the centre is hoping to ensure that no child has to go hungry by providing hot meals to the near 200 local school children that use its youth club services.
items like fresh fruit, veg and meat—are collected daily by the charity’s volunteers and used to make the nutritious, wholesome meals for many children in my local community. It’s a cause close to my heart and in my spare time I volunteer at Kilmarnock Road, alongside my sister Ann who leads the charity, who can tell you more below about the difference donations make to them. I feel truly humbled when I see those children enjoy their meals and to know I’ve made a small contribution to that.
Ann Heaton, Community Centre Manager of Kilmarnock Road Children and Young People Family Resource centre, said:
“The pandemic has presented some very harsh challenges in our community and we couldn’t manage without the support we receive from local businesses such as M&S.
During the school holidays, that support is more vital than ever and the daily fresh food deliveries we receive from the M&S store go a long way, not only to help feed children attending our youth club services, but to make fresh food parcels for families that are struggling to put meals on the table.
As well as providing food, we’re helping families living below the poverty line in Hartlepool to address their financial and emotional wellbeing concerns and support those without jobs to get back into work.”
I’m also really proud that M&S is doing its bit on a national level to address this mounting issue, as a member of Marcus Rashford’s Child Food Poverty Task Force to help end child food poverty. We also want to help our customers do their bit too, so M&S gives them the option of selecting the newly launched Neighbourly Foundation as their chosen Sparks charity. The Neighbourly Foundation gives local organisations—from food banks to care groups—access to emergency funds so they can continue providing their services. Nearly 6,500 customers have already selected the Neighbourly Foundation as their charity—and we donate to the fund every time they shop with M&S in our stores or online.
This year has taught me that every action we take, however big or small, can help to spark real change in our communities. I’m proud to personally witness the small, but positive change we’re making to the families and children here in Hartlepool with every food donation we make.
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