Our Help The Hungry appeal today passed the ?7m mark, enabling our appeal partner, The Felix Project, to deliver the equivalent of 4.3 million meals to hungry schoolchildren and vulnerable Londoners in the 12 weeks since lockdown began.
The milestone was reached thanks to more significant corporate donations, including an additional ?100,000 from online grocer Ocado, taking its total donation to ?390,000, and a further ?90,000 from banking group Citi boosting their aggregate give to ?250,000.
It comes as the charity Feeding Britain warns that 3 million children face the prospect of hunger during the upcoming school holidays. Of these, it cautions, only 1 million are eligible for the government’s free school meal summer holiday voucher of ?15 a week, with the remaining 2 million living with parents who narrowly do not qualify but cannot always afford food.
Helen Barnard, of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, confirmed that the summer voucher scheme – agreed by the prime minister after being forced into a U-turn by footballer Marcus Rashford – only covers a minority of children in poverty. She said: “Soaring numbers of families are being pulled under and having to rely on food banks to get through the current crisis, even with the voucher scheme in place.”
The harsh reality is that an astounding 66 per cent of food-insecure families – amounting to almost 200,000 children in London – cannot access government help and are forced to rely on food parcels from charities such as The Felix Project.
At the start of lockdown, The Felix Project faced an existential crisis with a total collapse of its fundraising. Thanks to The Independent’s campaign, it has not only been able to survive but has operated at twice its normal capacity, delivering up to 40 tons of nutritious produce a day and supplying 86 schools and 400 charities and community hubs across the capital over the course of a week.
The Independent shareholder Evgeny Lebedev said: “These generous new donations take us 70 per cent of the way towards our goal to secure ?10m to combat food poverty in London over the next three years. Our pledge is given added urgency by the release of worrying economic data, including that the number of people out of work and claiming benefits jumped 23 per cent to 2.8 million last month.”
Jo West, of Ocado Retail, said most of its donation had been raised from Ocado and their customers via their “you give, we give” scheme. She added: “We’re extremely grateful to our customers for their generosity which enables groups like The Felix Project to bring food to people in desperate need.”
James Murray, chair of the Bridgepoint Charitable Trust, which donated ?50,000, said: “We are delighted to contribute to the work of The Felix Project in feeding vulnerable communities.”