Amid the fear and negativity due to the novel coronavirus pandemic, a Grimsby primary school teacher is being hailed as a hero for walking 5 miles a day to deliver lunch to disadvantaged children.
The assistant headteacher at Western Primary School, Zane Powles delivers 78 packed lunches to kids who qualify for free school meals, each containing a sandwich, a packet of crisps, a biscuit and an apple.
He says the burden of carrying around a heavy 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, living in an area that has some of the worst deprivation in the country.
Mr. Powles, is a fitness enthusiast, and former soldier and uses his daily rounds to check on the welfare of some of the children, while other families have a quick chat with him.
He maintains social distancing while delivering the lunch, as he drops the food on the doorstep, knocks on the door, and retreats to the pavement.
Claire Pulfrey was one such parent who was full of praise for what Mr Powles does for her children. “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.
The food and the bags are provided by the school’s catering contractor, and deliveries are continuing through what should be the Easter holidays.
He has become a legend on the estate after completing three weeks of deliveries, several colorful posters praising him have come up around the locality.
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: “LEGEND!! MR POWLES”
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.”