Bexley schools open food banks to support the community during the pandemic

By Toby Porter

Three schools in Bexley, all part of The Primary First Trust, are running their own food banks to support the local community during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The three schools, Mayplace Primary School, Lessness Heath Primary School and Barnehurst Infant and Junior School, have created food banks to support their pupils and families who are finding it difficult to make ends meet through lockdown.

With a considerable number of parents and careers having to isolate, on furlough or unable to work during the national lockdowns, the food banks have become a lifeline for many in the area.

a staff member and pupil at Barnehurst Infant and Junior Schools’ food bank

Senior leaders and wellbeing staff at each of the three schools organise and deliver weekly packages to supply vital food items, toiletries, and clothing to those in need.

This is thanks to the generous donations from staff, parents and local neighbours and businesses throughout the community.

At Mayplace Primary School, on Woodside Road, staff collect a variety of food items to create care packages for Free School Meals (FSM) pupils as well as anyone else in need.

At Christmas, the school provided three new books for every child with FSM, which were individually wrapped for the children to enjoy opening on Christmas Day.

Lessness Heath Primary School, on Erith Road, launched the Community Aid Network, #LessnessCAN, to support their vulnerable families.

The school now prepares 20 bags of food each week and hand-deliver them to isolating households.

During the Christmas period, #LessnessCAN helped to make Christmas special for its families. Children were given advent calendars, Christmas jumpers and gifts for their families that they had either made themselves or personally selected.

The school also worked with Slade Green Food Bank to provide Christmas dinner, including fresh turkeys, which were delivered by staff on Christmas Eve.  

The school has now been gifted Easter Eggs for the children by Morrison’s supermarket for the upcoming Easter holidays.

Over the last few months, parents and guardians also donated uniform items, including shoes, jumpers and rucksacks which have meant vulnerable children were supplied with the necessary items and can now attend school.

At Barnehurst Infant and Junior Schools, on Barnehurst Close, staff launched their Barnehurst Together initiative, offering emergency food parcels for those who have found themselves in difficult times.

The parcels contain essential food items for the week and can be discreetly requested through their wellbeing team.

All the schools have been open for vulnerable pupils and children of key workers throughout the last few months, whilst delivering remote education for all pupils who were at home.

They are delighted to be welcoming all pupils back into school this week. Though schools are fully open, the food banks will continue making a difference to the community.

Andrew Moorhouse, CEO of The Primary First Trust, said: “At The Primary First Trust, we strive to be the First Choice for our parents and aim to deliver an educational experience that leads to outstanding outcomes for all our children, regardless of their background.

“The challenges of the last year mean many families’ circumstances have changed, but we are here to support however we can. I could not be prouder of our Bexley schools’ food banks which have sustained so many families over the last few months.

“Thank you to our staff for their incredible dedication and continued hard work and the kind and generous donations made by our local communities.”

A staff member at Lessness Heath Primary School’s food bank

Rachael Flaherty, Head Teacher at Mayplace Primary School, said: “We are passionate about providing for our children and want to thank everyone who has donated food or new books to help those in our community who need it most.

“We will continue to support and help all our vulnerable children as much as possible during these challenging times, whether that’s with food to eat or educational materials to enjoy.”

Ann-Marie Bolton, Head Teacher at Lessness Heath Primary School, said: “We launched our #LessnessCan campaign last year and have worked closely with our community and local supermarkets to provide food, clothing and household items to our families in need.

“The campaign has been essential to support our families and we have tried to spread the #LessnessCAN message in any way we can with all staff now wearing #LessnessCAN face masks in school.

“Thank you to our wonderful supporters and team of staff who make all this possible. This work is so important.

“One of our single parents who had been struggling and had no food in the house said she knew we would never judge her and would help her. This means everything to our families, especially at this time.”

Louise Shields, Head Teacher at Barnehurst Infant and Junior Schools, said: “We are committed to ensuring our pupils have everything they need to learn and to support their mental and physical wellbeing.

“For some of our families, this has meant providing food packages through our Barnehurst Together Initiative.

“We have been amazed at our pupils’ resilience and courage throughout the last year and our staff and local community have been doing everything we can to support them.

“Thank you to everyone who has helped to run our Barnehurst Together food bank and for all the kind donations of food, we couldn’t do it without you.”



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