Caring mum who has fed hundreds of hungry Leigh Park children is made MBE

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A CARING mum who has gone above and beyond to feed hundreds needy children and families is to become an MBE.

Selfless Susan Parish, the business and community manager at the Park Community School in Leigh Park, has been named in the New Year’s Honours list for her services to education.

The 63-year-old mum of two from Bordon helped set up the school’s ‘Munch’ programme in 2017, which provided free, nutritious meals for impoverished pupils.

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Susan Parish at Park Community School
Picture: Habibur RahmanSusan Parish at Park Community School
Picture: Habibur Rahman
Susan Parish at Park Community School Picture: Habibur Rahman

But when the pandemic hit in 2020, the scheme became a vital lifeline for hundreds of families, acting as a food bank for struggling residents across the Leigh Park and Havant areas.

In Autumn 2020, the ‘Munch’ Community Pantry was set up following two years of work by Susan to raise funds from a local housing association authority.

To date, her remarkable efforts have seen Susan raise £490,000 – which included a recent £190,000 grant from the National Lottery that will fund the scheme for the next three years.

Speaking of her New Year’s Honour, a stunned Susan said: ‘It’s amazing. Little old me, who would have thought it? I’m truly amazed. It is one of those things you never expect to happen.’

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Susan Parish 
Picture: Habibur RahmanSusan Parish 
Picture: Habibur Rahman
Susan Parish Picture: Habibur Rahman

As well as setting up the Munch programme, Susan also helped to extend the school’s services by developing a community team, who are able to keep Park Community open from 7am to 10pm for most days, 51 weeks a year.

On Christmas Day, Susan joined volunteers from the school to cook free meals for families across the area.

Speaking about her passion to help, Susan added: ‘I don’t want any child to be hungry. I can’t bear the thought that any child would be hungry.

‘If they are hungry they can never be in the right place to learn. Education is ultimately what will get somebody on the right path to life.

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‘I know what being poor is like. It’s a struggle. But it’s more of a struggle these days, there’s an expectation that everyone should have everything.

‘When you are marginalised or struggling that is an added pressure. You want to be the same as everybody else, if you haven’t got a job or people around to inspire you, how can you ever make it?’

Headteacher Christopher Anders was full of praise for Susan’s efforts, which began with a modest budget of ‘just a few hundred pounds’.

He added: ‘To date Munch has provided thousands of free hot meals to children and their families in the community.

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‘This will continue for years to come as a result of small donations from individuals, gifts from local businesses and charities, and a grant from the National Lottery.

‘Through Susan’s actions the school is a true representation of what a community school offering an extended programme should be, and Susan embodies our ethos of being “much more than just a school’.’

Susan praised Mr Anders for his support but insisted: ‘I am embarrassed that it is me who has been awarded an MBE. There are lots of people who equally should be thanked. I don’t know who singled me out or put me forward. But this is a team effort.’

A message from the Editor, Mark Waldron

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