Mayoresses raise £13,000 – and counting – to feed Lewisham kids this half-term

By Grainne Cuffe, Local Democracy Reporter

The mayoresses of Lewisham have surpassed their funding target in their campaign to cover free school meals for children over the October half-term.

Dawn Atkinson, Natasha Ricketts and Christine Norman, who are volunteers at Evelyn Community Store, recently launched a ‘packed lunch’ appeal to pay for free school meals for Lewisham children over the upcoming school break.

This week they passed their target of £10,000 and had raised more than £13,500 at the time of writing.

It comes as the Government on Thursday rejected a Labour motion to extend free school meals over school holidays.

Since the Covid-19 outbreak, there has been a 13 per cent increase in the number of people applying for and receiving free school meals for their children across Lewisham – this equates to about 13,000 families across the borough.

The mayoresses chose schools from across the borough which have a high number of children on free school meals.

They set up hubs local to the schools, many of which were set up already as food banks or to help their community during the pandemic.

The mayoresses, who were awarded the title this year in recognition of their work to tackle food poverty, said: “We are blown away by the reaction of not only the local but wider community.

“The generosity has shown that children matter, no matter what.

“We are shocked at the lack of understanding that was shown (by the government) around food poverty and how it has been impacted by the pandemic.

“As for suggesting that the schools are already doing enough for children, we agree.

“That’s why the task force has been trying to hold the government accountable for the raising number of children living in poverty.

“That’s why we are using our platform as the mayoresses of Lewisham to ensure our children have a meal next week.

“We are aware this is a sticking plaster but until the government takes responsibility, sadly this is all we can offer.”

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Pictured top: From left, Natasha Ricketts, Lewisham Mayor Damien Egan and his partner, Christine Norman and Dawn Atkinson

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