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School opens food bank to help pupils with no food at home

Sadie Carter described the school food bank as a 'godsend'. Credit: ITV News Anglia

A school in Great Yarmouth has set up its own food bank after a pupil told staff they did not have any food at home.

In ITV News Anglia's final report into childhood poverty Tanya Mercer has been looking at why some pupils in our region are turning up to school hungry.

  • Click below for Tanya Mercer's report

Sadie Carter says she worries for baby Esme and her two other children. Every week she struggles to make ends meet to feed, clothe and house her family.

It only takes a small change in circumstances for things to become very difficult. That happened recently when a mistake was made in her Universal Credit payments.

Sadie Carter said: “It was in November and Universal Credit paid me £231 which was for a month with two children.

"I was heavily pregnant and I had no money for shopping, for gas or electric.

"I had to pay bills and keep on top of things, I couldn’t do none of it. I got depressed, I got down, I was crying every time I thought about how I was going to feed my children."

North Denes Primary in Great Yarmouth runs its own food bank. Credit: ITV News Anglia

She says she couldn't have survived without the help of her children's school - North Denes Primary in Great Yarmouth.

They have set a food bank in the school to help families who are struggling. It is run and stocked by donations from staff and members of the community.

Sadie added: “That was a true godsend. I couldn’t have got through that month without help from the school.

Debbie Whiting, Headteacher of North Denes Primary School, said: “This started quite simply with one child coming into school and saying can you help my mum, we haven’t got any food.

"We have a wellbeing team and we had a chat and put it to staff and people donated food and then as we’ve gone on, publicity has meant that people have made donations which is making it more sustainable."

Debbie says too many families in the area are living in poverty and she sees the effects on children everyday.

“It’s hidden poverty," said Debbie Whiting. "People who are on very low incomes, in this area there’s a lot of seasonal work, so the work’s there in the summer, it’s not there at this time of year, things close down.

"Then you go onto benefits, it’s a new claim, as it is with Universal Credit you have a five week wait and the whole cycle seems to go round."

West Earlham Infant School in Norwich runs a breakfast club. Credit: ITV News Anglia

Graham White, from the National Union of Teachers, said: “The poverty effects pupils when they come to school, they come to school hungry.

"Some pupils are not dressed appropriately for the weather. Then you’ve also got the issue of pupils who haven’t prepared well enough because they don’t have access to the books, the equipment."

At West Earlham Infant School in Norwich they run a breakfast club for pupils.

For many families, breakfast clubs are the only way of guaranteeing their children have a decent meal at the start to their day.

Children who have had breakfast are more attentive in class. Credit: ITV News Anglia

Sarah Mardell, Headteacher of West Earlham Primary School, said: “We know that children who are not having breakfast will not be as focussed and attentive as they could be.

"We want to make sure that our children have the very best chances despite some of the pressures from home and as much as possible we want to make sure every child has an equal opportunity."

Staff say it makes a big difference not only to children's well-being but to their levels of concentration and learning too.

However, there's criticism that schools cannot and should not be filling the gap for social services.

There are lots of people struggling with the daily grind of poverty and there are many organisations trying to help, but the message is that if we do not invest in our children now they will pay the price later on.

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