A stark confession from a teenage girl who went without food for a weekend so the rest of her family could eat has sparked her school into supporting a community food bank.
Youngsters at Handsworth Grange Community School in Sheffield have donated more than 800 tins, jars and packets of food in just three days after a letter was sent to parents on the first day of term.
The plan was formed after a 15-year-old girl revealed to staff she had not had a meal all weekend - so there was enough food for the rest of her family.
Assistant head Paul Burrows said: “The girl’s plight was revealed when she was chatting to our head, Anne Quaile, one Monday morning, and she said the last meal she’d had was her school lunch on the Friday.
“When you hear about poverty existing like this in the heart of your school community it really hits you in the face.
“We are a community school and the fact that people can be struggling in this way so close to home has really shocked people.”
The girl was given a food parcel to last several days – and her plight was highlighted by Sheffield South East MP Clive Betts when he raised the case with David Cameron during Prime Minister’s Questions.
The food collected by fellow pupils will now be distributed to needy families through a local church which had already set up a food bank.
Mr Burrows said: “We decided to do something to help and decided we wanted to formalise links with a local food bank.”
He said on the first day after letters went out, pupils brought in 300 items, and the number rapidly grew to 800.
“They are all piled up on seven tables in a corridor and it is a pretty amazing sight,” he said.
“The response from the whole school has been simply stunning.
“We want to help the whole community but we are also aware of the need to help our own.
“In the letter we said if you or someone you know is experiencing difficulties, approach us discreetly and we will try to help.
“Some of our students are quite well-off with their PlayStations and TVs in their rooms and they don’t really see the need for this. But we have youngsters too who have none of these things.”
Handsworth Grange staff hope they can make a commitment to the food bank on a long term basis, with a collection every half term.
Mr Betts said: “As a result of coming to visit the school I raised the issue of food poverty with the Prime Minister. I am pleased to see the actions that have been taken by them.”
Sheffield Council will be investing £20,000 of public health cash into supporting food banks across the city.
Coun Jack Scott, cabinet member for environment, recycling and streetscene, said: “In today’s society it is appalling and shocking that even one family feels they can’t make ends meet to such an extent that they can’t afford to eat.
“We are one of the richest nations in the world and yet we are seeing some of the most terrible cases of poverty in years because of the huge financial pressures being put on hard working families. There is no doubt in my mind that the tough austerity measures being imposed by this Coalition Government are the root cause of this situation.
“We don’t want a situation where there are food banks. But whilst there is this need to do everything we can to support food banks in Sheffield and we are pleased we are making this investment.”