South Shields food bank's collaborative effort to help 250 struggling families with their weekly grocery shop
and live on Freeview channel 276
Each voucher is worth £50 and will allow recipient families to purchase essential items at Asda stores.
Brian Thomas, the CEO of Hospitality and Hope, explained that the drive was intended to aid borough families who have been slipping through the cracks of government support.
"We identified that there were a lot of families in South Tyneside who aren’t eligible for the free school meal voucher and green voucher from the local authority – but they’re still struggling,” he said.
"So what this initiative has done, effectively, is give each family an Asda £50 voucher to support them in their weekly shop – just to bring them a bit of respite as their income’s gone down, their kids are stuck at home and there seems to be no let up in the pressures on them.
"This isn’t going to change their lives, obviously – but the idea is it can give a helping hand during a difficult moment at the start of this year.”
The South Shields charity says it began to coordinate the charitable effort after speaking with a number of schools in the area.
It was one of a number of food banks that reported a huge rise in demand over the course of 2020, as the economic impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic began to be felt in South Tyneside.
The issue of food poverty returned to the centre of the national debate at the beginning of this year, when ‘pitiful’ shortcomings in the Government’s outsourced provision of free school meal packages were laid bare.
“The past twelve months have been such a challenging period for children and families in many ways,” Scott Brown, head teacher at one of the schools involved in this week’s supermarket voucher push, Hadrian Primary, said.
”We are delighted that with the support of Brian and the team at Hospitality and Hope, that we are able to provide additional help and assistance to many of our families, that I am sure will make a big difference and will be gratefully appreciated.”
Asda’s South Shields General store manager, Alex Smith, also said: “We’re really pleased that we could help Hospitality and hope with their donation of vouchers towards supporting families who may find themselves struggling financially and are unable to access free school meals.
“We hope this will go a long way in supporting and feeding around 250 families within our local community.”
Mr Thomas, who predicts unprecedented levels of need across the borough in the coming 10 months, added: “It is a sad fact that for some in our community the impact of Covid means they continue to face the situation of higher heating and food costs whilst at the same time their income has gone down.
“I hope that receiving a voucher will enable those families to have a little respite from the strain that they have been living under and myself and my team are delighted to be able to make a difference, no matter how small.”