In a bid to tackle the crisis that is holiday hunger this October half term, national charity Spread the Happiness has partnered with DHL to hand out free food hampers to families in need in Middlesbrough.

The organisations have come together to gather almost 5,000 items of food and drink to be put towards essential happiness hampers, that have now been delivered to four schools up and down the country to support 163 pupils and their families.

Families whose children would normally receive free school meals and attend breakfast club, can struggle with the extra cost of feeding their offspring over the autumn break. With their child not being in full-time education and at home during the day, this can mean bigger bills for food and daily essentials – leading to the reality dubbed ‘holiday hunger’. Some parents even go without food themselves, to make sure they can afford the food their children need.

Reports out this week highlight how stretched families have become, with hundreds of people being forced to live in cars and caravans due to not being able to afford the ever-increasing price of rent. In Middlesbrough, according to a report by End Child Poverty, 38% of children were living in poverty in 2017, after housing costs; with child poverty being most prevalent in the larger cities.

Over the past four weeks, Spread the Happiness and over 220 DHL team members have worked tirelessly to collect thousands of items to help those in need – with each hamper packed full of food and family essentials, including tinned produce, pasta, rice, cereal and fruit juice. In Middlesbrough, 116 hampers in total were delivered to a chosen primary school.

Spread the Happiness was launched in 2011 by stand-up comedian and motivational thinker Shonette Bason-Wood. As well as regular charity and fundraising projects, the organisation visits schools in highly deprived areas to aid teachers in neurological-based ways of teaching for pupils at a disadvantage.

Speaking of this year’s October hamper project, Shonette said: “Holiday hunger is a widespread issue across the country – I’ve met parents who will live off toast for weeks on end during the holidays, to be able to give their children proper food and meals. It is a terrible thing and we need to do as much as we can to support them.

“We are hugely grateful for the help and generosity of everyone involved at DHL. These hampers will make a huge difference to the lives of families across the autumn break.”

Tanya Cotter, Corporate Responsibility Manager at DHL, commented: “DHL encourages employees to volunteer their time to support the local communities they work or live in. With so many children across the UK affected by holiday hunger, we thought this was a great opportunity for us to work with Spread the Happiness to help parents and guardians who may be struggling to feed their children during the holidays.”

“Our colleagues were able to get involved by contributing as little as 20p by picking up an extra tin of food as part of their usual shopping trip, or volunteer to pack the items into hampers, and it has been incredible to see everyone come together to support such a worthwhile cause.”