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Going the extra mile to keep children fed

Volunteers from St Thomas Church are working with the council to deliver 600 food parcels each week throughout the school summer holidays to households across Swansea who are eligible for free school meals.

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The families of a further 7,000 pupils in Swansea will continue to receive direct payments to their bank accounts to provide lunches themselves throughout July and August.

The Welsh Government has extended funding for free school meals to cover the whole of the school summer holidays.

In Swansea parents and carers who qualify are offered the choice of the weekly food bags, having direct payments or opting out of the scheme entirely should they wish.

Around 600 have chosen to receive the food parcels and with schools having broken up for the holidays the volunteers at St Thomas Church have stepped up to offer to deliver them directly to each and every door.

St Thomas Church, along with many other groups and volunteers, has been heavily involved in Swansea's response to the Covid-19 crisis, extending its foodbank to a full time operation and in delivering free school meal parcels in the Cefn Hengoed catchment area.

Parish Vicar Reverend Steve Bunting said: "We have worked very closely with Swansea Council since the start of the pandemic and this is an opportunity for us to help further.

"It is one less job for the council to have to worry about as staff return to their usual roles and it ensures teachers who have also been helping deliver this service have a well-earned break and time to hopefully relax during the summer holidays."

The eight volunteers have been delivering the food parcels in the Cefn Hengoed area for more than two months and in recent weeks have taken on more and more deliveries to the rest of Swansea.

They collect the parcels, which are prepared by Swansea Council staff, first thing Monday morning from the Civic Centre and then start their routes which can see them on the road until the evening. Some use their own cars while local firm ADB Building has loaned them a van.

Rev Bunting added: "So far we have been very lucky with the weather as it has not really rained on a Monday since we started 10 weeks ago so we are hoping are luck continues."

Cllr Jennifer Raynor, Swansea Council's Cabinet Member for Education Improvement, Learning and Skills, said: "We are obviously very pleased that the Welsh Government is funding the free school meal scheme during the school summer holidays as this can be a difficult time for families in any year, let alone at a time when so many have been hit financially by the pandemic."

Cllr Clive Lloyd, Swansea Council's Cabinet Member for Adult Care & Community Health Services and ward councillor for St Thomas, said: "St Thomas Church has been a tremendous help throughout this crisis and I would like to thank Reverend Bunting and his team of volunteers for their continued support and for taking on the task of delivering the food parcels throughout Swansea this summer.

"I would also like to thank the many other groups and individuals who have worked tirelessly to run all food parcel deliveries since the crisis began."

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