A team of young volunteers who give up their time to help those struggling to put food on the table have been invited to the House of Commons.
Rushden Academy’s Team Phoenix, made up of seven students aged 12 to 15, are the only students in the country who have been invited to attend the National Food Poverty Conference on June 18 in recognition of the volunteering they do.
Jo Steele, administration officer at Rushden Academy who was the original inspiration for Team Phoenix, said: “Delegates at The National Food Poverty conference will be part of a select few who will help identify strategies to combat food poverty just six weeks after the new government has been elected.
“It’s tremendous that Team Phoenix will be at the heart of where key decisions are made and they may be able to influence policies and legislation towards reducing food poverty.
“These youngsters selflessly give up every Saturday, plus days in the school holidays, to work in the food hub at the local charity Phoenix Resource Centre in Wellingborough.
“Each week between them they sort through an average of two tonnes of food which is enough to feed a family of four for a year.
“Donated by the distribution centres of supermarkets this usable, and in date food, would otherwise have ended up in landfill because it was surplus to requirements, branding on packaging had changed, it had damaged outer packaging and casing, or tins and boxes are dented or ripped.
“The food, once sorted, is given to local food banks, night shelters and organisations that provide lunches for the elderly and sick.
“It’s also made into parcels for vulnerable and needy members of the Rushden local community.
“Energy drinks and food are also supplied to Northamptonshire Police so they can give them to homeless young adults living on the county’s streets.”
Team Phoenix member Jack, 15, said “We’re well aware of the challenging social issues facing many people in the local community and hoped that by giving our time we could make a difference to at least some people in need.
“Out of all of the places where we could have volunteered, we chose the Phoenix Resource Centre because of their commitment and dedication to the food poverty cause.
“We feel really honoured to be invited to such a prestigious event and can’t wait to represent our peers and Rushden Academy.”
Team Phoenix is getting to the conference thanks to sponsorship from Taylor Shaw, the education sector catering specialist who are suppliers to The Education Fellowship academies in Northamptonshire.
Taylor Shaw are paying for the transport and tickets for the seven students to attend the conference.
The two staff supporting the team when they head to London are being sponsored by The Education Fellowship.
Emma Satchell, business development manager of Taylor Shaw Limited, said: “We’re delighted to be supporting Team Phoenix.
“To us, a successful partnership is one where we are not just the provider of great food but one where we’re an integral and valued support to the whole school.
“We’re all so impressed by the amazing work and initiatives Team Phoenix are responsible for and look forward to hearing about the conference from the students – the discussions, current thinking and way forward.” Johnson Kane, CEO of The Education Fellowship, said: “We are inordinately proud of these students whose selfless volunteering each week throughout the year is an example to us all.
“Not only do they work at the food hub but they’re also responsible for initiating a breakfast event at the academy for Year 11s sitting their GCSE exams this term.
“Before long they also hope to run a Come Dine With Me event aimed at supporting families of Pupil Premium students and those who are young carers to make sure they are able to cook quality meals using surplus foods from the Food Hub.
“They are a credit to both the academy and their families.”
The Education Fellowship has nine academies in the county, including Rushden Academy, Olympic Primary School in Wellingborough and Windmill Primary School in Raunds.