Published: 06:00, 12 December 2019
| Updated: 09:32, 12 December 2019
A school in Medway has launched a food bank this Christmas because children are arriving for class hungry and parents are facing "crisis" money problems.
The head teacher of Luton Infant and Nursery School has issued an appeal for donations for the increasing number of parents who cannot afford to put food on the table.
Steph Hammond is also asking for presents suitable for three to seven year-olds who attend the school in Alexandra Road.
Luton is one of the most deprived areas in Medway with more than 40% of pupils entitled to free meals because their parents are dependent upon state benefits.
Mrs Hammond said: “It’s become a harsh reality. No family should have to go without and especially not at Christmas.
"There are some children who have very few toys at home.”
She added that while many were eligible for vouchers at the official food banks across Medway, for some they could not make the limited supply stretch for the days allowed.
And she said: “Some come to me in real crisis and can’t even afford the bus fare to get there to pick it up.”
Mrs Hammond said her team’s commitment to families outside of school was now just as important as inside.
She said: “The food bank we are offering is part of the wider support we already offer such as supporting children’s behaviour in the home, The Freedom Programme for parents who have suffered domestic abuse, and support with accessing appropriate housing, dealing with landlords.
“Many of my families are facing a shortfall in the housing benefit they receive to the actual cost of their rent - this being one of the main reasons why they often do not have enough money for food.
"This shortfall can run into £200, so how can they be expected to cope?"
Mrs Hammond has been overwhelmed with support from those in the community wanting to help out since putting out the appeal last Thursday.
"It is vitally important that some of Medway's most vulnerable families have school support services around them to help them through any difficult times that they may be facing" - Steph Hammond
She said: “I have somebody wanting to pay for an entire family’s Christmas food shop and somebody else wanting to give £200 to kit a child out with clothes.
Staff at an estate agents have offered to wrap parcels.
“It is vitally important that some of Medway’s most vulnerable families have school support services around them to help them through any difficult times that they may be facing.”
She and her team are also discussing how they can provide a scheme to provide help during school holidays and at weekends when the free meal service is not available and there’s no budget for outings.
Staff at Twydall Primary School are also reaching out to provide food for families in its area.
For the past six months, items have been picked up from Marks & Spencer at Hempstead Valley twice a week and placed at the school.
Danielle Butler, an administrative officer, collects food on Thursdays and Sundays.
These items are surplus and would otherwise soon to have been thrown away.
She said: “This week we have picked up three sacks of bread, rolls and apple pies.
"It’s mostly tins with dents in them which we get.
“It’s an excellent idea which has gone down well with those who are struggling at the moment.”
Meanwhile, some of the hundreds of toys have been donated as part of kmfm's the Shed Load of Toys appeal.