‘’We know how much food poverty is an issue for the families. We have heard from some children who’ve been affected by how their parents will go without food so they can feed their children. At LCC we have been providing food and will continue to do so, so no young person or their families go without.’’
These are the words of Alexandra McMillan on the kind of work that the Lewisham Legendary Community Club does, an organisation in which she founded herself in July this year.
McMillan, 41, from Manchester, is originally a personal trainer by trade and used to manage a private gym in East Dulwich for four years. However, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, she lost her job and has since created the LCC.
McMillan said: ‘’I have managed to make use of my furlough time – I was furloughed until the end of July and have turned a distressing situation of redundancy into something positive for the community.’’
It was during the early stages of the pandemic when McMillan was volunteering with the Lewisham food bank, when she realised how much of an issue hardship was and cites this experience as a huge source of inspiration which led her to founding the club.
She said: ‘’Working at the food bank and seeing children come to the door and their faces of happiness and parents’ tears because they had received food, I knew at this point that I could do more.’’
At the same time, she was also spending hours volunteering with the charity Save the children as campaign champion, enabling her to gain more insight and perspective into the severe levels of poverty in London.
As the school holidays approached, McMillan felt that more needed to be done to help children who would be losing their free-school meals.
McMillan said: ‘’I knew that I had to find a way to help, so on the weekend 13 June I did some shout-outs in the Forest Hill mutual aid group which I am also a coordinator of, I tried to get a feel for volunteers available and got a great response.”
The response from the meeting with the group was hugely positive and enabled McMillan to carry out the temporary food provision for two of the local schools.
Although the club was initially created with the intention of taking some of the strain off schools that had been supporting families throughout the pandemic, by giving out lunches or delivering food parcels to them, it has since become much more than that.
She added: ‘’My initial idea was to make lunches but then realised the need was beyond that, so hence there are two parts of the project.’’
McMillan spoke to Eastlondonlines in detail about these current campaigns: ‘’We have 2 projects – The Food Provision and the Lunch Club. The Food Provision runs out of St Mark’s church in Catford and supplies food parcels to young people and their families who attend local schools. We also receive food donations from FareShare, Lewisham local and other local businesses each week. We then make a food parcel which will last a week, which includes fresh produce and we then deliver this to the families.’’
As well as Lewisham, the Food Provision also runs the same service in Tower Hamlets, showing their willingness to help out in as many places as possible.
‘’We work with the Tower Hamlets poverty team and receive food distribution from them which comes from the Felix project and we also receive distribution from City harvest.’’
The second initiative, the Lunch Club is slightly different. Despite being called the Lunch Club it is heavily focussed on providing after school meals, however received it’s name after being established during the summer holidays, and will continue to provide lunches during half-terms.
McMillan added: ‘’We provide lunches for all the young people attending all the Youth first clubs in Lewisham and we do this six days a week. In the term time the food is for the after school and evening sessions and in the holidays it’s lunches.’’
Throughout the holidays the club also provides food for local football team Pro plus FC, who run a free holiday camp for young people in Deptford, to contribute to the fantastic work they are already doing.
The efforts of the organisation in and around the community have seen them build up a solid rapport with families and with those that attend the Youth first clubs – the commitment to their work is only intensifying and shows no signs of slowing down.
Speaking of the LCC’s previous endeavours and their current work, McMillan said: ‘’We are helping families in hardship, some who receive free school meal vouchers but we also help families with no recourse to public funding. Over the summer holidays we made over 2,400 packed lunches and over 660 food parcels were delivered. We are now making in excess of 500 lunches a week and delivering over 65 parcels a week in Lewisham. We have had a small grant from Lewisham local and have crowdfunded and will continue to do so.’’
The LCC’s primary aim is to end child poverty in the country and they recognise that the long-term systemic, economic and political failures of the country are a catalyst to the unfortunate predicament many children now find themselves in.
According to McMillan, these are the multiple underlying problems which have resulted in an unbalanced order of life. She said: ‘’In a city like London, extortionate housing costs are a significant factor. Lack of free or affordable childcare, low-wages and unstable jobs also contribute. Over two-thirds of children living in poverty live in a household where at least one parent is in-work.’’
McMillan also strongly argued that an immediate change was necessary to protect the future generation. She added: ‘’We believe there is a need for radical, structural change to ensure that no child is living in poverty in this country. We believe in the power of communities to drive that change and to support families failed by a decade of austerity and a welfare system not fit-for-purpose.’’
McMillan informed Eastlondonlines that the club are currently in the process of making a short film to demonstrate the work they are doing, whilst also working with other charities.
‘’We will be using a film to assist our campaign. We have already done 2 full days of filming which included a group discussion with young people and a visit from Janet Daby the MP at Our food provision, to assist with the filming content. While we are also working with larger charities in the sector such as Save the children, The children’s society and The food foundation to amplify their calls for action.’’
Regarding future projects, McMillan was unable to disclose their nature, however she assured that the club would continue to fight food poverty and there would be ‘’some really exciting projects in the near future’’.
She said: ‘’We will be continuing with the project working with Youth first and the schools, as the need will only increase due to the end of furlough and more families falling into hardship. We will continue to campaign.’’
If you would like to volunteer for the LCC you can email firstname.lastname@example.org and you can donate to their food provision service by following this link: https://www.gofundme.com/f/LegendaryCC