Bridging the Gap, Kent | An #ActiveAte case study

12 August 2019

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Beaver Community Trust which is based in The Willow Centre provides early years care and education to low income children and families in Ashford, Kent. In comparison to other areas in the county, Ashford has experienced the sharpest increase in poverty in recent years, with some areas in the town ranked among the 7% most deprived in Kent.

The Trust runs a nursery and community café and now – thanks to savings made through being a member of FareShare – holiday scheme Bridging the Gap.

The scheme runs through half term breaks and over the summer holiday, following a successful pilot last year which saw almost 300 meals provided to children and a further 200 to their parents and carers – many of whom would not have eaten otherwise. Any families in the Ashford area which have at least one child in school is able to attend Bridging the Gap and access nutritious meals and snacks throughout the holiday period.

In the five years since signing up to FareShare, Sheila Tong, business manager, says that Beaver Community Trust has been able to make a number of its services sustainable.
“Without FareShare, we wouldn’t be running our café, which is a central part of our centre,” she explains. “The nursery would have a much smaller budget for its services to the children and we also wouldn’t be able to provide support to other agencies working with targeted families or continue to help local church groups.”

“Four years ago, we were looking at the possibility of closing the café, but thanks to FareShare we’re still here providing affordable, and in some cases free, meals to the community.”
The Kiddie Kapers Nursery has 165 families on roll, with 181 children attending the nursery. Many children who come to the nursery speak English as an additional language and the nursery ensures they meet the needs of them all. Sheila explains that Bridging the Gap alongside their other services is a lifeline for many families in Ashford.

“Our holiday scheme, as well as café, provide far more than just a meal – we’re able to help tackle social isolation too. Some families may find it difficult to seek support, but at The Willow Centre we make sure our café is a comfortable and secure space which is free of judgement and available to everyone no matter what their age is.”

After last year’s pilot, families who attended Bridging the Gap were asked to provide feedback about the service. One parent said: “This makes a such a difference to my family, gives us together time and is a nice treat not to cook and worry what to do the children for lunch and how to pay for the extra groceries.”
Another parent added: “This helped me financially with feeding me and my daughter as times have become hard plus she’s eating a lot more.”

The meals being provided for free, helping to ease financial pressure for families, was a running theme in feedback. Another parent said: “The ladies have been wonderful and have made lovely meals. It has really helped out financially as I have had a tough time with money.”

“Four years ago, we were looking at the possibility of closing the café, but thanks to FareShare we’re still here providing affordable, and in some cases free, meals to the community.”