Over 30,000 people have benefited from grants from Caritas Westminster’s St John Southworth Fund and Funeral grants since 2015. Eighty-nine individuals and thirty-two projects received different types of grants in 2020. One project which received a grant over three years, was Borehamwood Foodbank’s Holiday Lunch Programme.
Until February 2020 the Borehamwood Foodbank hosted lunches during school holidays to respond to the risk of “holiday hunger” in families whose children received free school meals. Before the Covid-19 pandemic, the Holiday Lunch Programme was catering for 30 children and 14 adults with meals and food bags to take away.
But from March 2020, things had to change.
Responding quickly to the closure of schools, and aware that “holiday hunger” had become “lockdown hunger”, the team in charge of the Holiday Lunch programme, began delivering weekly lunch packs – including cooked meals – for the families who would have attended the holiday clubs.
This continued throughout the time that the schools were closed, and by the summer holidays they were providing these lunches to an average of 60 children and their families – double the number who had attended the February holiday club. One week they delivered food to 79 children.
Responses from some of those who received the food show how vital this service was:
“Thank you for the food pack we received today, your help has been the difference between me being able to feed my family or gas and electric, so we all thank you from the bottom of our hearts. We have finally heard from universal credit and will receive our first payment on the 4th June which is ten weeks after we received any wages! … without you we wouldn’t have coped”
“A massive thank you for our fantastic food delivery today, we were not expecting that, you and your team have already shown such kindness and been very generous but from all of us a huge thank you! Not to have to worry about how I’m going to feed the family has taken such a pressure off that I cannot thank you enough.”
The family lunch project provided more than just essential food. During the Summer holidays last year, they also included books, toys and craft packs for the children, and “back to school” stationery. And, one memorable week, the children were treated to goodies from an ice cream van! All this was funded by the project grant the team had received from the St John Southworth Fund, as well as other grants, and food “rescued” from supermarkets and businesses by the Felix project.
Since 2015, a total of £1,172,850 has been distributed from the St John Southworth Fund and the funeral grants fund, to 463 individuals and projects, benefitting more than 30,375 people altogether.
The St John Southworth project grants have enabled parishes across the diocese, as well as other agencies, to set up social action projects such as foodbanks, services for the homeless, and outreach to elderly and isolated people. Recent partner organisations have included the Irish Chaplaincy and Hope for Southall Street Homeless.
Dozens of individuals awarded crisis grants have been able to purchase essential household items in an emergency, avoiding the risk of crippling debts. And fifty-five bereaved families were helped with funeral expenses in 2020 alone.
At the start of the pandemic a new type of grant was made available, the Covid-19 emergency grant which has been given to help projects, parishes and schools respond to the additional needs caused by the pandemic. This enabled foodbanks to expand, and schools and parishes to set up “pop-up” foodbanks, many of which have since become permanent. One such new foodbank is that at Newman Catholic College which was recognised recently at the Diocese of Westminster Social Action Awards.
Grant applications need to be made through or supported by your local parish within the Diocese of Westminster – you can find out more, including full details of how to apply for a grant, on our webpage here.