North East Connected

Cramlington families to receive Christmas food from caring students

Screen Shot 2015-12-21 at 13.35.02Students from Cramlington Learning Village have been praised for helping to feed dozens of hard up families this Christmas.

In the past few weeks hundreds of items of food have been collected throughout the 24 classes of the Junior Learning Village.

They will help make up the 50 food parcels which are being prepared for distribution on Christmas Eve and delivered to the 100adults and children who every week rely on handouts from the Cramlington food bank.

One of its co-ordinators, Rev Steve Wilkinson from St Nicholas Church, said the students’ action demonstrated a “groundswell of care and concern for the people outside the school community.

“It’s beyond amazing.  We often think of kids as being selfish and not understanding altruism. But they all realise that they are in a fortunate place and they ought to be able to help other people.”

The school’s food collection was started by a group of six Year 8 friends.  One of them – 12-year-old Lois Buckland – said she was surprised when she heard about the number of people who needed help from the food bank. “It’s really sad and that’s why we wanted to help – particularly at Christmas,” said Rachel McNally, 13.

Lisa Burton, pastoral co-ordinator at the Junior Learning Village, said: “I am incredibly proud of the girls.  They do everything with a smile and it’s all done in their own time.  We’ve collected for the food bank before but that was led by staff.  This is the first time that the children have led it themselves and the response has been fantastic.  Every day students are coming in with full carrier bags.”

During an assembly at the school, Rev Wilkinson told students that some parts of the media were wrong in labelling people who use food banks as scroungers and – not far away in Newcastle’s west end – the country’s biggest food bank feeds 1000 people every week.

“I’ve been to houses where parents hadn’t eaten for three or four days because they were giving what they had to their children,” he said. In south east Northumberland the closure of major employers like Alcan and the cuts in local government staffing have had a major impact.

“Women and men who have worked all their lives suddenly find that the company or organisation they have worked for isn’t able to continue and they’re made redundant.  Their redundancy pay will only go so far and trying to find new work and access benefits is incredibly hard at the moment, particularly in the North East.

“A friend of mine finished work on 1 August and he immediately started looking for a job but he hasn’t found one and he can’t yet claim benefit for his family, so there is no income.  That’s a common story because it takes a while to find a new job or move from employment to benefits.”

Rev Wilkinson said the Cramlington food bank – led by Jim and Janice Rynn and helped by volunteers from all the town’s churches as well as non-churchgoers – offers emergency help to fill a gap.

“When you look at the news you see these tales of worldwide horror of war and famine and it’s very easy to become numbed to the need that’s nearer home.  We think of ourselves as an affluent 21st century society, but there are big cracks that people fall down,” he said.

For more details about Cramlington’s food bank visit

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