A Sheffield headteacher was stunned when a pupil said she hadn’t eaten for a whole weekend because there was no food in the house.
After hearing the girl’s story, Anne Quaile, headteacher of Handsworth Grange Community Sports College, decided that students and staff should do something to help local families struggling to feed their children.
She also mentioned the issue to Clive Betts, the MP for Sheffield South East, who raised it at Prime Minister’s Question Time last month.
Ms Quaile hit on the idea of writing to parents and carers and asking for donations of non-perishable food and other essential items.
Within hours of the school’s initial appeal, 300 tins and jars – everything from baked beans and cereal to pasta and Christmas puddings – had been handed over.
After three days, the school had received nearly 2,000 items. The quantity was so vast that it filled 15 tables, stretching from the reception area, past the head’s office and down the school corridor.
The items were all given to a local food bank, which in turn distributed them to needy families.
In the meantime, the 1,000-pupil school has applied to become an official collection point and food bank referral agency – one of the first schools in the UK to do so.
“This isn’t a particularly deprived area,” said assistant headteacher Paul Burrows. “We all know that there is poverty out there but to have one of our own pupils describe what it is like brought it home to us and set our food bank appeal in motion.
“We are a community school and children across all age groups have been involved in the appeal. It has raised awareness of the issue and prompted lots of conversation in school. We have been overwhelmed by the community’s generosity.”
The school’s food bank appeal is ongoing. Handsworth Foodbank has given the school two giant food bins and donations will be transported to families in need. Children at Handsworth Grange’s feeder primary schools have got involved in the project too.
“It’s not just a one-off link,” said Mr Burrows. “We are keen to help in other ways, perhaps asking our students to help paint the food bank’s new premises or to design a new logo.” CAPTION: Vital support: Pupils from Handsworth Grange, which has applied to become an official food bank referral and collection point