Church food charity marks five years of serving up support

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A Milton Keynes charity that helps children who are hungry to access a meal at home is marking its fifth anniversary this Easter.

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

St Mark’s Meals began in 2019 after the Revd Paul Oxley 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.

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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.

Getting the Meals boxes readyGetting the Meals boxes ready
Getting the Meals boxes ready

Paul said: “We realised that many children didn’t get a meal in the evening and we thought we could help. 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.

“But 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.”

To mark their fifth anniversary, 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.

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Now, the charity supports 115 local schools and children’s centres, with connections across the city.

Rachel Fielding, who manages the operation in Milton Keynes, said: “Right now, we know that 30 per cent of children in Milton Keynes are living in poverty. That’s about nine 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.”

Revd Paul also runs MK Child Poverty Partnership, bringing together many organisations to eradicate child poverty in Milton Keynes.