School To Open On Christmas Day To Offer Dinner To Families In Need

A secondary school near Portsmouth will open up on Christmas Day to provide a Christmas dinner for children from low income families.

About 60 kids, their parents, and some elderly people will be served a traditional Christmas dinner with all of the trimmings at the Park Community School, in Leigh Park.

Park Community School. Credit: Google Maps
Park Community School. Credit: Google Maps

The school sits in an economically deprived area that was previously the site of the largest council estate in Europe. However, the community has pulled together in difficult times and raised the money for the lunch, which will be served entirely by volunteers.

Some local businesses have also contributed funds to buy presents for some of the children as well as to hire entertainment such as a bouncy castle.

Credit: PA
Credit: PA

The lunch started as the idea of Christopher Anders, the school's headmaster. He told The Mirror: "Christmas brings pressures for families on low incomes. On Christmas Day at least, we will know they are well fed.

"Without it some in our community could miss out.

"For some it is the only proper traditional dinner they will be getting. The focus is on doing the best for our children and trying to do all we can for the community.

"For a number of our children the food they eat at school is really important to them, they may not eat something healthy at other points of the day."

Making sure that the kids who attend the school are well fed is obviously a high priority for the school. They have an initiative called the Munch Project that aims to ensure that students get a decent meal, regardless of their home situation.

They provide food to parents and children during the holidays, as well as offering free breakfast and after school 'supper clubs'.

The school also operates a foodbank in the run-up to Christmas.

The school has rightly received praise for the initiative, but the National Education Union has also said that the very fact that it is necessary exposes 'a frightening level of deep-rooted poverty'.

Credit: PA
Credit: PA

Chief Executive of the Child Poverty Action Group, Alison Garnham, said: "Times are tough for families struggling to make ends meet and for some there will be a real shortage of Christmas cheer.

"It's great that some schools are opening their doors to put on a festive celebration for the community and that children can enjoy themselves in a familiar environment - three cheers for them!

"However, we know that things have got really bad when it falls to schools, who themselves are facing cuts, to patch up the holes in the safety net.

"All children and their families should have an adequate income to be able to celebrate Christmas at home - it used to be possible to put away some cash every week for festivities, but incomes are now so low families can barely make ends meet week by week.

"If austerity is really over, there wouldn't be the increasing child poverty and hardship we are witnessing as 2018 draws to a close."

Children and Families Minister Nadhim Zahadi said: "We want every child to have the best start in life.

"Since 2010 there are 300,000 fewer children living in absolute poverty and employment is at a record high.

"On top of that, only last week we launched a £9million fund so thousands more disadvantaged children will benefit from free meals and activities during the school holidays."

However, the Shadow Education Secretary, Angela Rayner, said: "No child should have to go without at this time of year, and while it is wonderful to see a school stepping up to support their pupils and community, it is a stark reminder of the state of our country under the Conservatives.

"Years of falling wages while the Tories have slashed support for those who most need it have created an unacceptable situation in which millions of children are growing up in poverty and could miss out on the things we all take for granted at Christmas.

"The next Labour government will take meaningful action to ensure that every child gets the best start in life, and to ensure that no family has to go without, in a country for the many, not the few."

Featured Image Credit: PA

Tom Wood

Tom Wood is a freelance journalist and LADbible contributor. He graduated from University of London with a BA in Philosophy before studying for a Masters in Journalism at the University of Salford. He has previously written for the M.E.N Group as well as working for several top professional sports clubs. Contact him on [email protected]

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