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Maidenhead Foodshare vows to keep borough's children fed

Maidenhead Foodshare says it is not prepared to let any child in the Royal Borough go hungry as free school meal controversies continue to make national headlines.

Last week, images of a food hamper from school meals caterer Chartwells provoked outrage on social media.

The food had been sent to replace free school meals, but the firm – which apologised – was attacked for a lack of quantity.

Foodshare trustee Debbie Gee said the news ‘took her breath away’ and vowed not to let any child in the Royal Borough fall into a similar position.

The charity has re-launched its ‘Holiday Hunger’ appeal, in which it provides weekly food boxes to families with at least one child in school.

It has been doing this since the third lockdown was announced – and Debbie said it will need more donations if the appeal is to last the duration of the restrictions.

“You can see the food going down slightly and we are getting rid of excess from Christmas,” she said.

“In no time at all I will be putting the call out, especially if it [the lockdown] goes on until March.

“We just don’t want any child in the Royal Borough to go hungry.”

Debbie added: “When I saw the news [Chartwells], it literally took my breath away. That was the immediate reaction. I thought: ‘thank God we provide our own [food]’.

“If a person comes to Foodshare for help, we will do everything in our power to give them that support regardless of their background.”

The latest pandemic restrictions have forced a change at Foodshare, which has been operating from the old Tesco unit in the Nicholsons Centre.

Debbie said that in order to keep people safe, operations have moved to a nearby car park.

“We have had to change dramatically how we do things. We felt users coming in to collect their food was a risk,” she said.

“Even though it is cold, it is something we have had to do to protect everybody.”

Debbie added that she has faced other challenges, with some volunteers self-isolating with the virus – which they picked up elsewhere – and other, more vulnerable members, shielding.

In terms of people using the service, the trustee said that numbers had ‘gone up slightly’, adding that the charity had done well to adapt with changing times.

Since moving to the bigger Tesco unit, Debbie added that Foodshare is making use of every inch.

“We can certainly never go back to a smaller food bank now, it has expanded so much over the pandemic,” she said.

“We are constantly adapting. We had everything thrown at us initially and we managed to evolve.”

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