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Primary school sets up food bank to support children ‘too hungry to learn’

PUBLISHED: 16:36 17 December 2018 | UPDATED: 21:52 17 December 2018

Sharon Johnson, care and support advisor at North Denes Primary School in Great Yarmouth has been helping pack the food parcels. Picture: Joe Norton

Sharon Johnson, care and support advisor at North Denes Primary School in Great Yarmouth has been helping pack the food parcels. Picture: Joe Norton

Archant

A boy walking into class to tell his teacher his Mum did not have enough money to buy food instigated a headteacher at a Norfolk primary school to set up a food bank.

North Denes Primary School in Great Yarmouth have set up a food bank to support children and their families who cannot afford to buy food. Picture: Joe NortonNorth Denes Primary School in Great Yarmouth have set up a food bank to support children and their families who cannot afford to buy food. Picture: Joe Norton

North Denes Primary School in Great Yarmouth has been collecting food donations for the last five weeks to support pupils and their families who cannot afford to eat.

Headteacher, Debbie Whiting, said children were “too hungry to learn” because of delays to universal credit.

Great Yarmouth was chosen as one of the first places in the UK to test the welfare policy which has replaced six working age benefits.

It takes a month for a universal credit assessment and can take seven days for money to arrive in an account.

North Denes Primary School in Great Yarmouth have set up a food bank to support families of children who cannot afford to eat. Pictured - headteacher, Debbie Whiting and deputy headteacher, Craig Honey. Picture: North Denes Primary SchoolNorth Denes Primary School in Great Yarmouth have set up a food bank to support families of children who cannot afford to eat. Pictured - headteacher, Debbie Whiting and deputy headteacher, Craig Honey. Picture: North Denes Primary School

Mrs Whiting said: “As a school we were aware some families were struggling but never realised the situation was this bad.

“It really is concerning that families do not have enough money to feed their children.

“Pupils would come to school too hungry to learn which had such a detrimental effect on their learning.”

Three years ago North Denes Primary started offering pupils free toast and a drink at registration time in the morning to give children an extra boost before class.

The school has already given out 35 food bags and expects to distribute plenty more over the next couple of days.

“We need to make sure families have enough food over the Christmas period so we will be doing everything we can to meet the demand.

“The community is starting to hear about the food bank and the support we have had is brilliant,” Mrs Whiting said.

Half of the children at the Great Yarmouth primary school aged four to 11 rely on free school meals.

Leader of Great Yarmouth Borough Council, Graham Plant, said ensuring children are fed properly is a priority.

He said: “We are very grateful for any support we can have with issues such as this.

“Food banks have been running for years and so any help we can give to families in need is only a great thing.

“It is a priority for the council to make sure children are fed properly and have a good place to learn.”

Volunteers are helping to prepare the food parcels which include dry and tinned food as well as sanitary products.

Anyone who wishes to donate food to the school is encouraged to contact North Denes Primary on 01493 842063.

Parents praise fantastic support;

A parent who said she would have been unable to feed her children without North Denes Primary’s food bank has described the support the school has shown her as phenomenal.

Casey Carter, 30 and from Great Yarmouth, has two children at the school, in years five and six, as well as a one-month-old baby, and said her universal credit payment left her with no food in the cupboard.

She said: “I dread to think what kind of position my children would be in without the support of the school.

“I have never struggled like this before and the school has gone above and beyond to support us.

“I cannot thank it enough.”

Rachael Ringwood, 40, whose daughter is in year six at North Denes Primary, believes the school deserves a lot of credit for what it has done.

“I think the food bank is a brilliant idea and I cannot speak highly enough of the staff at the school.

“My daughter would be devastated to think her friends are going hungry and the school is doing its best to stop that from happening.”

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