School children, food and IT access – how you can provide urgently needed support

Here we are, coming back in the New Year and straight into another national lockdown. We have already seen some urgent issues arising similar to the first lockdown back in March. Many ELBA partners have been asking how they can help support school children – particularly following on from the fantastic generosity shown for the annual Christmas Toy Appeal, which broke all records this year.

There are two urgent needs and some practical ways to help out with food supplies and IT access.

Access to food is something that many of us take for granted. Most of us are in the privileged position that we don’t need to worry about where our next meal is coming from or keeping our children from going hungry. The COVID-19 pandemic has brought to light issues in the UK around food security with food bank usage increasing as unemployment rises and children going hungry without the provision of free school meals. Marcus Rashford has led a very successful campaign to get the issue of all children having sufficient food at all times, including school holidays, and most recently he highlighted the images of the food parcels that some low income families have received to feed their children.

Community organisations have been struggling to bridge the gap. One of these organisations is Children With Voices who provide healthy meals for children and have expanded their services to create a food hub for the whole community. Their founder, Michelle Dornelly said of their response to this new urgent need:

“We immediately reassured these families that we were here for them publishing the details of our food hubs and ways to get in touch on social media. Since then we have made several emergency food deliveries to families and expect demand to surge next week. We have been fighting holiday hunger for almost a decade and, in light of the  consistent failings to feed our children, are preparing to reach more families than ever in this current lockdown and into 2021.”

In east London more than 27,000 schoolchildren were eligible for free school meals in 2019, over 30%, and this number is likely to be higher due to the pandemic. This means there are thousands of families that rely on community organisations like Children With Voices to ensure their children don’t go hungry during lockdown and school holidays. ELBA, its corporate partners and corporate volunteers have a long history of tackling food poverty. Last year, our Virtual Food Drive raised over £20,000 to provide support for food banks and food services through the pandemic.

You can continue to donate to the Virtual Food Drive here with all funds raised going to organisations providing food.

If you also want to do something practical, you could think about cooking meals for a local charity or food hub. Children With Voices have let us have some recipes for lasagne, which is a very cost effective way to get high nutritional value food to numbers of children. If you’re in the Hackney or Tower Hamlets area, Children With Voices would be very happy to receive your cooked meals which will be distributed to a family in need. Have a look at our most recent Hot Opps for more information or contact

Similarly, many of you will have read about the impact of the sudden closing of schools on pupils’ learning. In many homes in east London, there are not the laptops or PCs to allow all the children to get on-line to keep their studies going. Sadly, the research from the first lockdown shows it is the children in disadvantaged homes who are most badly impacted.

As with food, there is a simple way to get help. Our partners Tech Inclusion and East End Community Foundation are both running fundraising campaigns for laptops and devices:

Some business partners are also organising donations of surplus equipment, from the organisation or personal donations from staff. This needs to be properly organised and ELBA is working on proposals to set up community hubs which will be able to take in devices for safe and secure upcycling. In the meantime, if you have devices to donate, please do contact or

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