Kingston mum extends free food initiative after community support

A nutritionist and mother-of-two from Kingston extended her initiative to feed children in need throughout the October half term after overwhelming support from her neighbouring community. 

Laura Ercolani, 42, prepared healthy meals which were available to pick-up outside her home each night during the half term holidays.

On Wednesday, Ercolani announced she would extend the initiative into the weekend after the generosity of neighbours and friends who contributed ingredients and sent anonymous donations to support the effort.

Ercolani admitted: “I feel very touched and a bit emotional about this.

“Somebody left £50 in the letter box yesterday.”

Ercolani originally set out to fund the initiative herself, but she soon sparked interest after posting on social media and local community site Nextdoor, and was asked to create a crowdfunding page.

The fundraiser surpassed all expectations and within two hours, Eroclani raised £100 and pledged to donate leftover funds to the Kingston Foodbank. 

Ercolani spent the half term with children Isabella, 10, and Sebastian, 7, who helped shop for ingredients and pack bags with individually wrapped fruit, snacks and juices. 

HALF-TERM HEROES: Laura Ercolani and children Sebastian and Isabella leave food for hungry children outside their Kingston home. Credit Laura Ercolani

Ercolani is the founder of nutrition consultancy NutriWell, and currently teaches cookery at Richmond and Hillcroft Adult Community College.

For ten years she worked as a clinical nutritionist and project manager for the NHS in child health and obesity prevention across London and she is proud to have devoted her life to education, children and nutrition. 

Ercolani’s felt compelled to act after the government controversially voted against an extension of the free school meals scheme last week.

“No child should go hungry due to selfish government decisions”, she said.

She added: “It is an incredibly difficult year for a lot of people and I know there are many families in need in the local area.” 

Ercolani experienced financial hardship first-hand only three years ago which gave her an insight into why some struggling parents feel too ashamed to ask for help. 

She admitted: “Going through all the processes of getting vouchers and exposing yourself brings a lot of shame if you can’t provide for you children.

“I was in that position so I know exactly where the comes from.”

Ercolani rejects this stigma but made a deliberate effort to leave food out late at night to provide privacy for those who were reluctant to come forward.

The outpouring of support for the initiative has reinforced her love for community and prompted her to think of the possibilities to help hungry children well beyond the end of half term.

She joked: “I’m even contemplating plugging in a community fridge!”

To donate to Laura Ercolani’s fundraising page, click here.

You can read more about other south west London businesses supporting free school meals here.

Featured image credit: Laura Ercolani

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