UCS united for Foodbank Collection

Today has been a red-letter day in the UCS calendar with the now annual staging of the North Paddington Foodbank Collection, a moment when the entire UCS family – Senior School, Junior Branch and Pre-Prep – comes together to raise awareness of, and collect donations for, a singularly worthy organisation in our local community.

Tradition stipulates that the collection should be pupil run, and its organisers for the last four years, Sixth Formers Xavi Mesquita and Dylan Ireland, led a team of volunteers on the school playground and at the school gates from early this morning. However, their mission was only fully accomplished after the packing of support vans headed for North Paddington Foodbank’s sorting centre.

Headmaster, Mark Beard, was proud to witness the Foundation-wide effort, saying: “The annual collection is an opportunity to be part of something that actively benefits people who are less fortunate as well as a chance to reflect outwards, to the wider community, the generosity and kindness that really are integral to the school ethos.”

Pupils brought in items pre-designated to their respective year groups, including pasta and rice (Entry), cereals (Shell), tea bags and instant coffee (Lower Remove), tinned fish (Remove), tinned tomatoes and pasta sauce (Upper Remove), sunflower and olive oil (Transitus), sanitary products (Sixth), plus baby formula and nappies (staff).

Dylan, who together with Captain of Monitors Xavi has overseen this project since 2019, said: “We have been really proud to support North Paddington Foodbank over the last few years. It may be difficult to comprehend but food poverty happens in this country.”

Indeed, food poverty is a growing problem in the UK. According to government statistics, 4.2 million people in the UK – 6% of the population – were living in food poverty in 2020 and 2021. Those figures include 9% of children. “To put that into a UCS context,” added Xavi, “this works out as over two forms in the Lower School.”

Numbers are only climbing amid the cost-of-living crisis. There was a 22% increase in demand for food parcels from January to February 2022 compared with the same period in 2020. Xavi and Dylan explained some of the factors behind the rise during a school assembly, including the wait for Universal Credit (income support), zero-hour contracts making households vulnerable, and the application process for disability benefits.

Remarkably, pointed out Xavi, “there are at least 2,500 food banks in the UK, which is more than the combined number of Starbucks and McDonald’s.”

UCS’s partnership with North Paddington Foodbank started in 2016, following a discussion about food poverty during a form period, and subsequently became a Foundation-wide initiative three years later.

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