A Grimsby primary school teacher has been hailed a local hero for walking five miles every day to make sure disadvantaged children get a decent lunch during the coronavirus lockdown.
Every morning, Zane Powles delivers 78 packed lunches to children who qualify for free school meals, each containing a sandwich, a packet of crisps, a biscuit and an apple.
The assistant headteacher at Western Primary School says the discomfort of carrying heavy food around the empty streets in his rucksack is nothing compared with the ordeal faced by families forced to stay at home.
“It encourages parents to stay in their homes with their children, and keeps everyone safe,” he said.
The school’s executive head, Kim Leach, delivers lunches in her car to children who live further away, in what she describes as a vital service.
“I suspect there’ll be a fair few of our families that have got very little food,” she explained.
Four out of 10 of the almost 300 children at Western Primary School are classed as disadvantaged, in an area that has some of the worst deprivation in the country.
Mr Powles, a fitness enthusiast and former soldier, uses his daily rounds to check on the welfare of some of the children, while other families appreciate the chance for a quick chat.
At every house on his round he leaves the food on the doorstep, knocks on the door, and retreats to the pavement.
As her children’s lunches were dropped off, Claire Pulfrey was full of praise.
“It helps a lot because it means we don’t have to go out to the shops all the time to get food in for the kids, so we can keep our families safer,” she said.
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The food and the bags are provided by the school’s catering contractor, and deliveries are continuing through what should be the Easter holidays.
After three weeks of daily food deliveries, Mr Powles has become something of a legend on the estate – with several colourful posters praising him.
One reads “Well done Mr Powles” – while on a nearby garden wall a child’s chalked tribute, owing more to enthusiasm than good spelling, says in 18-inch high capital letters: “LEGNED!! MR POWELS”
Mr Powles looks slightly embarrassed when asked if he feels like a local hero.
“My job is the welfare of children and educating them,” he said.
“In these times I’m just doing it in a different way.”