By Lizzie May
An independent coffee shop is giving free breakfasts to children on free school meals.
Owner of Crushed Bean Croydon, Pam Yee, 32, is personally funding from her own pocket to help the cause of food poverty in Croydon. She said: “I’ll keep funding until I can’t anymore.”
She is giving youngsters a proper start to the day to compensate for the cash problems families face after the suspension of free travel fares for under 18s.
The breakfast bag includes hot baked beans, some slices of brown toast, a piece of fruit, and juice or bottled water.
Parents do not need to prove their eligibility for the meal – but just ask. Staff have been instructed to give it to whoever faces them. There are no exclusions on who is allowed to have a free breakfast. Crushed Bean does not have any plans to end this scheme once the pandemic has passed.
Ms Yee said: “We trust that if you’re asking for a breakfast, you need it. It doesn’t matter if they come in with a child or without. It is a big thing to ask someone for food.
Ms Yee has managed to keep the coffee shop afloat with her own funds, as well as generous gestures from regular customers.
One came especially through Croydon to give Yee and the team a gift: “She gave me over £100 in cash, and said it was what she would’ve spent if Covid hadn’t happened. I haven’t seen her since. I feel so lucky.”
Daughter of a single parent, Ms Yee experienced first-hand how difficult it can be. “My mum was a single mother, and with two kids it was hard to feed us all the time,” she said. “We were lucky to have support from family members, but not a lot of people do.”
Crushed Bean lost all their income after closing their doors for months on end, before reopening as a takeaway.
Children have given their own way of thanks for the free breakfasts, drawing up a card with a rainbow and ‘We love Croydon’ written to the staff.
In May this year, Croydon foodbank provided emergency food for 3,044 adults and children compared to 2,221 at the same time in 2019.
The surge in the crisis prompted Kennington pupil, 16-year-old Christina Adane, to launch a petition to restore free school meals for half term in May. It was backed by England and Manchester United footballer Marcus Rashford, who formed a taskforce this summer to try and help reduce child food poverty in the UK.
The campaign successfully sparked the government into extending free school meals over the holidays.
This furore encouraged Ms Yee to push ahead with plans she had only thought about.
She says families making use of her free breakfast have appreciated not having to use their school meal vouchers – so they can use it elsewhere.
She said: “It has been really difficult to get the word out to those who it would help. something like a free breakfast can help to make people feel supported by their community. Croydoner’s are very fierce about where they’re from, and I feel a part of that now more than ever.”
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