Academy trust installs community fridges to feed hungry pupils

Teachers say they're encountering more and more pupils coming to school hungry - prompting one academy trust to install community fridges to help feed youngsters and their parents.

The pilot scheme is being tried out at five primary schools in Suffolk and Essex which are part of the Reach2 Academy Trust.

If it proves to be a success, it could be rolled out to all 59 of its academies across the region.

Steve Lancashire, chief executive of Reach2, said during a recent visit to one of the trust's schools, he was left "heartbroken" by one boy's story.

The community fridge at Unity Academy Primary in Colchester Credit: ITV News Anglia

Unity Primary Academy in Colchester is one of the five schools trialling the community fridges.

Its catering manager Chelsey Gardner says stories of hunger are becoming far too common - and no longer surprise her.

The fridge is stocked with leftovers from the school kitchen Credit: ITV News Anglia

The community fridges are stocked using leftover food from the school kitchens and aim to provide nutritious food for families who need some extra help. They include fruit and vegetables, rice, milk and eggs.

Schools hope to be as discreet as possible, encouraging children to talk to a teacher and keeping the fridges in areas that will not attract attention from their peers.

According to charity the Trussell Trust, the use of food banks in the East is continuing to rise.

Last year 156,000 food parcels were handed over in this region.

Essex received the most, with around 16,000 parcels given to children alone. In Norfolk, more than 8,000 of the 15,000 food parcels went to young people, and in Suffolk, 6,200 emergency supplies were handed out - with around 3,800 of them going to children.

Reach2 Academies are not the first schools in the region to feel the need to feed pupils and their families.

Last year, headteacher Debbie Whiting revealed she had set up a food bank at North Denes Primary in Great Yarmouth for families in poverty.

Click below to watch a video report by ITV News Anglia's Charlie Frost