Engaging churches to relieve child povertyOriginally known as MASH, FiSH works to relieve child poverty in Lincoln through the allocation of food vouchers, to children who qualify for free school meals, which they exchange for food suitable for children in local stores. City of Lincoln council, local businesses and Lincoln Co-Op, supports us.
Providing Food in School Holidays is viable and an exciting way for churches to have real social impact by putting the church at the heart of their local community. FiSH is easy to set up, has low running costs and can be operatedby a team of 3 people. In Lincoln, there are 4,500 children & young people who find themselves living in poverty. The map below illustrates the neighborhoods in the City and the percentage of children living in poverty:
The project evolved out of Monks Abbey School Holiday (MASH) Meals project that supported families in the Monks Road area by providing food vouchers for children attending Monks Abbey Primary School, who are normally eligible for free school meals during term time. The project was born after a realization that for parents who need to claim free school meals this would otherwise mean, that for 6 weeks in the summer, 2 weeks at Easter and 2 weeks at Christmas they are suddenly faced with having to provide extra food and therefore incur extra expense with no extra income.
These vouchers are redeemable at the local shops, for food, milk and soft drinks suitable for children. The vouchers cannot be used to buy cigarettes, medicines, alcohol, videos, drugs of any kind, or lottery tickets etc. Over the past eleven years the scheme has grown and this summer supported 125 families with seven local stores supporting the project. The project has made a positive impact on our young people and their family’s quality of life. On average over 77% of families take up and use the vouchers issued. Sadly our records show that the need is increasing. Latest stats for Lincoln show 4,500 children in poverty, we can reach all of them this year with your help.
How the Scheme operates
To enable each individual area to run successfully we believe that you require a minimum of 3 church volunteers in a team. The main roles include all things finance, marketing (fundraising) and the process of issuing vouchers and collecting them from the stores at the end of the holiday period. We established a charity, fundraised and attracted local grants. We will provide a ‘how to’ manual and support for a nominal fee to churches. From our experience, we believe that there are a number of key elements required to make the project a success.