Students feed the hungry thanks to The Free Meal Project Bristol

Two Bristol students have set up a crowdfunded initiative to help reduce food poverty in the city after being inspired by Marcus Rashford’s campaign.

University of the West of England (UWE) students Christopher Dalingwater and Arshia Varziry set up The Free Meal Project Bristol by creating a JustGiving page seven weeks ago, with the hope of raising £500 to buy and deliver food packages to local food banks.

Nearly two months later, they have raised more than £1,200 and have delivered over £1,000 worth of food to food banks across Bristol.

With Christopher studying Business Management and Arshia studying Accounting and Finance, the students have been able to use their knowledge to help the initiative thrive.

With a £150 start up and all donations going towards food and packaging, the not-for-profit campaign has exceeded expectations, and continues to do so.

Each week they have been able to deliver between five and ten food boxes, valued at around £21 each, that are specialised to the needs of each individual food bank.

Ebenezer Church, who host a drop-off point for North Bristol Food Bank, had a special request for their donation. They asked if they could receive an Easter egg special donation before Good Friday, and the students delivered 120 Easter eggs to them.

England footballer Marcus Rashford started a national campaign during the second UK lockdown to raise money to provide meals for vulnerable people, particularly school children who, at the time, were unable to receive free school meals. The widely covered campaign to end child poverty brought the issue to the attention of Christopher and Arshia, who wanted to do something to help.

Arshia said: “Marcus Rashford’s campaign opened our eyes to the thousands of children, and adults, who go hungry every single every. We felt that if we were able to help, then we wanted to and we should.”

Christopher said: “We are so passionate about this project because we believe that nobody should go to bed at night hungry or worrying about where their next meal will come from, especially in a country like ours.”

“We are looking forward to expanding the project soon with the help of Enactus, an entrepreneurial action programme in UWE who have 70,000 members across the UK. We’re excited to continue to grow and develop as the future is bright for this project.”

After the immediate success of the initiative, they have been shortlisted to compete in Sodexo’s Stop Hunger partner competition alongside five other projects later this month, where they will virtually present their project and win a share of the £3000 prize, amount dependent on the presentation.

With the help of Enactus and the prize money from Sodexo, they are looking forward to expanding their deliveries to South Wales and Gloucestershire soon, as well as having their own space once a week allowing them to scale up and deliver more boxes weekly.

People can support the campaign by visiting JustGiving