Brentford FC have stepped in during lockdown to help ensure students eligible for free school meals at Oak Hill Academy have them delivered to their doorstep.

Three volunteers from Brentford Football Club Community Sports Trust (BFCCST) have been collecting food parcels from Oak Hill for the last 2 weeks and handing them over to families.

Since the onset of the current lockdown, the government’s food parcel scheme has dominated the news agenda, raising questions and doubts over the suitability of the food packages and their contents. The Government recently performed a U-turn and has now agreed to reinstate food vouchers so that families can shop for themselves and buy food they prefer to eat. 

For Rachael Saim, Principal of Oak Hill, this has not been an issue because she and her team went above and beyond for students to ensure they received a sizeable and nutritious food parcel of the same quality as the meals the students would usually eat in school.

Mrs Saim explained: “Oak Hill wanted to try to ensure all families got a good deal with their food hampers and it was important to receive one for each child in the household not simply one bag per family.

“We are incredibly grateful to the Brentford FC charity who delivered the food hampers to the doorstep! Thank you to all those heroes!

“The vouchers have now returned and I do understand that this is a more favourable option, as families can buy what their families like and need, which is always going to be better and I am glad the government has decided to reinstate them.

“Oak Hill were delighted to support families who are eligible in the meantime.”

Thanks to BFCCST, Oak Hill’s students had the parcels delivered straight to their homes. Around 71 food parcels have been dispatched by BFCCST over 2 weeks to the eligible families of Oak Hill.

Typical contents of the food parcels included: loaf of bread, baking potatoes, cucumber, tomatoes, sweetcorn in water, 5 portions of fresh fruit, pack of sliced meat (and vegetarian option) tin of meat or tuna, eggs, cheese portions, baked beans, 5 yoghurt pots, 2 pints semi-skimmed milk, dried pasta and fruit juices.

Amber Lloyd, Female Football Development Co-ordinator at BFCCST, commented: “After speaking to a member of staff at Oak Hill and explaining how we wanted to help local young people during the latest lockdown, she mentioned that not all young people and families were able to collect the food parcels.

“We wanted to help in as many ways as possible. Linking up with local schools has meant we are able to help deliver the food to the young people and families.”

Oak Hill and Brentford FC share a long-term partnership where students have had many opportunities to take part in coaching sessions offered by the football club, and due to the current pandemic, BFCCST have adapted their services to include free online coaching sessions for young people.

But recently, when students and families needed a different kind of support, Brentford FC Community Sports Trust were still keen to help: “We wanted to continue to support as many young people and their families as possible during the third lockdown”, Amber explained.  

Oak Hill Academy food parcel.

Oak Hill Academy food parcels.

Due to external pressures from families, the media and high-profile figures, including Marcus Rashford, who initially campaigned for the government to continue offering free school meal vouchers to those eligible during the first lockdown last year, the Government have decided to end the food parcel scheme and reinstate the voucher system from this week (18th January).

Many, like Mrs Saim, believe the voucher scheme is the preferred alternative as it allows families the freedom to choose the items that they like and need.

The £15 government-issued food vouchers can be used in all major supermarkets. M&S have topped-up the value of vouchers used in their stores to £20, meaning that eligible families can spend an extra £5 that M&S will cover.

Although BFCCST no longer need to deliver food parcels for Oak Hill, they will continue to offer free online coaching sessions to young people to support them during the pandemic.