Dear students, teachers and parents,
Even though the unity-in-fear, caused by the terrifyingly uncontrollable spread of the Coronavirus pandemic, has inspired solidarity, more solidarity is needed.
The virus does not discriminate, and is indifferent to race, gender, wealth and religion. It can, and does, infect anyone, which is why during this distressing and turbulent time, we have, understandably, turned out attention to, and focused on the safety of our own families and close friends, and perhaps, due to the enormity of this global suffering, we have lost sight of the local suffering in our communities.
The pandemic is not an equaliser: it has been grafted into our pre-existing conditions, and its attack on the already weak and vulnerable has been devastating. Parents who once relied on free-school meals in order to feed their children have been suddenly left with no alternative way of caring for their family, due to the closure of schools, and the Government’s plan to end these meals for children during the holidays was thankfully crushed by the powerful and inspiring opposition of Marcus Rashford. Rashford raised awareness of child malnourishment in the UK, which has doubled in the last six months, leaving 2500 children in hospital.
Panic and hoarding because of the pandemic in its early weeks, coupled with a looming corona-induced recession, have paralyzed groups that provide food for people in need. The selfish scramble for essentials such as pasta, tinned food and toilet paper, deprived the Food Banks of their basic needs. Many UK Food Banks were forced to close their doors in March, and with the donations and volunteering staff becoming increasing slim, these already vulnerable people who relied on their weekly food from the Banks have been made more vulnerable, due to the devastating impacts of this virus.
The fears that the outbreak would push struggling people deeper into poverty and social exclusion have proved to be concerningly accurate. Around 14 million people live in poverty in Britain — about one-fifth of the overall population — and the loss of Food Banks carries implications far beyond the distribution of food; they provide a support network and a social platform for people who would otherwise feel alone and excluded.
1.6 million people in the UK used Food Banks in 2019, and this number will only rise this year, as a result of the job losses and school closures our country has faced. Therefore, with the Food Banks opening, I ask that we turn our attention to this local suffering. I have seen the power of the community of St. Leonard’s, and the impact of our collective efforts in making a change. As a school, we can, as we have before, help some of the millions of people that are depending on these Food Banks in order to survive. In this academic year alone, we provided 800 meals to the Food Bank as a school, and we can do this again.
Throughout the summer holidays, while it is crucial to keep ourselves and our families safe, please consider making small donations to the Food Bank, because poverty is a pandemic itself. Items including Cereal, soup, pasta, rice, tinned tomatoes/ pasta sauce, lentils, beans and pulses, tinned meat and tinned vegetables are always needed.
Some local Food Bank addresses:
· Durham Food Bank: Mile House, Bridge End, Chester-le-Street DH3 3RA (open 9:30-5, closed on Saturday and Sunday)
· The Trussell Trust Food Bank: Durham Rd, Chester-le-Street DH3 3JL (Check opening times before: 0191 303 7559)
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