A NEW Forest charity is helping provide food for students entitled to free lunches at two New Milton schools during the closures.
On Monday Lymington-based New Forest Basics Bank worked with volunteers to supply special food parcels to more than 100 students from The Arnewood and Eaglewood schools, which had contacted the food bank asking for help.
Each parcel contained enough food to feed a student for five days, tying them over until the government is able to roll out a voucher system.
Basics bank chairman Oli Stanley said the Covid-19 crisis will have a “huge impact” on many families, from those who already struggling financially to those who will face hardship as a direct result of the situation.
“Charities like ours are never going to be so needed and in many ways we will be like the fourth emergency service,” he added.
“Free school meals have been a vital way of ensuring so many of our young people receive at least one balanced meal a day.
“We knew we couldn’t afford to wait until the government could launch a voucher system to replace free meals and children would need help from day one.
“We have responded to that, which is a very different way of working to our normal day to day food bank operation, but we are pleased to be able to rise to the challenge and offer a solution.
Mr Stanley said he had a “very dedicated team” who worked tirelessly over the past few days.
After staff from Arnewood and Eaglewood contacted the food bank, the charity then began organising the parcels, which contain pasta, sauces, tins of fish and meats, vegetables, meatballs, spaghetti, soups, rice pudding, tinned fruit and custard and biscuits. There will also be bread, spread and cheese.
They set up a mini distribution centre at the school with volunteers handing out the parcels throughout the afternoon.
Headteacher Nigel Pressnell said: “We are incredibly grateful to New Forest Basics Bank for helping us to ensure our students continue to receive the free meals they are entitled to.
“Eaglewood and Arnewood are very much community schools and we were worried for some of our children might be unable to access their usual free school meals.”
“These are unprecedented and worrying for times for everyone who works in education. It means a lot to us that the community is rallying together to ensure there is as little impact on our students as possible.”
Staff from The Arnewood School also made home deliveries to parents of key workers who receive free school meals but were unable to attend the collection.
New Forest Basics Bank is appealing for even donations as it prepares to help people through the Covid-19 crisis.
For more information on how you can help go to basicsbank.org.uk.