TLG Box of Hope was initially set up as an emergency response to the first lockdown. The initiative resources local churches – through start-up funding, advice and other support – to deliver emergency food and wellbeing parcels to families struggling financially throughout the pandemic. TLG was able to respond so quickly thanks to crucial early funding of £13,000 from Benefact Trust.
The project was originally a way of adapting TLG Make Lunch clubs, which are holiday food and activity clubs, set up in churches to support struggling children and families who would otherwise go hungry. In 2019, Benefact Trust awarded TLG a grant of £177,000, split across three years, to grow its network of clubs across the UK and help more families to access holiday support. The pandemic has meant that the churches involved have had to change their provision to meet with social distancing regulations, and so Box of Hope was born.
It quickly became apparent that it was not just TLG Make Lunch clubs who got on board with Box of Hope – with hundreds of local churches joining in, some of whom have now become TLG Make Lunch clubs.
As the pandemic went on and more families felt the economic impact, it was clear that this was going to be more than just a short-term emergency response.
For many of the families, it was about so much more than the food. It was an opportunity to have a quick chat on the doorstep to reduce isolation, to receive activities to keep the children engaged during lockdown and to be signposted to the additional help that churches provide to ensure the whole family’s wellbeing was looked after.
Emma, who has two children and lives in North Somerset, has been shielding since the start of the pandemic.
Her husband sadly passed away a number of years ago, and Emma’s two children have been supported through the bereavement by their TLG Early Intervention coaches.
During lockdown, the same local church that coached Emma’s children through TLG Early Intervention also stepped up in response to the crisis by running TLG Box of Hope.
Emma has been supported with emergency supplies, but also with Covid-safe face to face chats and a feeling of community. The burden of managing a tight budget with two children was a struggle, but when that parcel arrives on a Friday, Emma finds all the items she’s been needing for that week – as well as a friendly face to speak to, reassuring her that she’s not alone.
Chris Blackham, who oversees TLG’s volunteer programmes, commented: “We are so grateful to every single one of our partner churches who has adapted so well to responding to the additional needs of their community, while balancing the challenge of social distancing. One million meals is a huge number which could make it so easy to lose sight of the people behind it. However, we will always continue to be about ‘the one’ – never forgetting that behind each of those meals is a child that could have gone hungry but instead received a healthy meal and additional wellbeing support.”
Andrew Bass, Grants Officer for Benefact Trust, said: “We’re delighted that our funding has been able to support churches to adapt and reach out to those most in need, to provide not only essentials, but a friendly face and a listening ear. The church has always been on the front line of caring for the most vulnerable, and it’s amazing to hear that through TLG’s help, churches have been able to deliver one million meals to families across the UK.
“We’re proud that our funding will continue to support churches to feed children during the holidays, as restrictions ease and TLG’s Make Lunch clubs can reopen.”