Love Marlborough Kids Meals initiative, created by Kymee Cleasby, to provide free hot meals for kids through the summer holidays and possibly beyond has received a funding boost of £3,660 from the Wiltshire Community Foundation’s Coronavirus Response and Recovery Fund. The fund has already raised more than £1.1 million and distributed more than £750,000 to 200 voluntary groups across the county to help them tackle the fallout from the pandemic.
The Wiltshire Community Foundation grant, together with donations from the Rotary Club, have paid for food as well as training and making the kitchen Covid safe. Kymee Cleasby said: “We are so grateful to the Wiltshire Community Foundation for the grant which has made it possible for us to help people and it has made it easier for us to focus on what we are doing rather than run around trying to find the money. It will help us continue for the long term.”
Kymee Cleasby was inspired to start Marlborough Kids Meals by England player Marcus Rashford’s campaign to feed children missing out on school meals over the summer. “I completely agreed with him and began thinking about all the companies that were making large redundancies and all of the people who have never been in that situation before and not part of the welfare system,” she said. “I heard of families who had slipped through the net for one reason or another.
“I heard about one family living on baked beans for two weeks, which struck a chord with me. I come from a deprived background and I can remember eating baked beans for the whole of one summer. That was in the 70s, it shouldn’t be happening now.”
Kymee, who has catering experience, is working closely with friends from St Mary’s Church to provide the service. “Marlborough people are amazing and very community-minded, and people have come forward to volunteer in numbers I wasn’t expecting. We are now cooking 70 meals a week and we are expecting to do more so we are trying to get ourselves geared up for that.”
Two teams from the group’s ten volunteer cooks make meals for 12 families on a Tuesday and Friday and more volunteers deliver them in takeaway boxes so their neighbours won’t know they are receiving help.
“We cook a pasta meal on a Tuesday and a roast chicken on a Friday. We provide them with a baguette so they can have chicken sandwiches the next day. We want to be able to give them a recipe card and ingredients so they can use the chicken carcass to make potato and leek soup – so they can see it will make three meals.”
She said it is important that the group makes no judgement on who comes to them for help. “We don’t use any criteria to decide who gets fed because we don’t want anyone to feel they can’t come forward,” she said. “We won’t tell anyone else about their situation and we won’t ask them to prove they need help. We would rather feed one family that is abusing the system than miss anyone out.”
The group know there are more families in the area needing help. “We need to get the word out. We have been delivering leaflets in the centre of the town, but we need to get them delivered in the outlying areas.”.
She hopes to develop the service in the future by teaming up with other groups and teaching families basic cookery skills. “Some families have never cooked from scratch and don’t have the store cupboard ingredients, the money to buy them or the skills to do it,” she said. “We want to provide what families provided years ago but with the fracturing of families those skills are no longer passed on in the same way.”
Anyone needing help can contact the group by searching for Love Marlborough Kids Meals on Facebook, calling (01672) 700644 or emailing – firstname.lastname@example.org
Wiltshire Community Foundation interim co-chief executive Fiona Oliver said: “This is an inspirational example of a group that has responded to a need in its community and we are so pleased to help. One of the silver linings of the pandemic has been to see people looking after their neighbours.”