DfE to pilot £2m scheme to fight 'holiday hunger'

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The Department for Education has launched a £2m pilot to look at ways to support disadvantaged children during the school holidays by providing meals and activities.

children-eating

Organisations, local authorities and charities are being invited to bid for a share of the funding to work in partnership and across regions for initial research during the 2018 summer holidays.

This will be followed by a targeted pilot programme in the 2019 Easter and summer holidays.

Education minister Nadhim Zahawi said, ‘I encourage charities and expert organisations across the country to apply to take part in this exciting programme to help us better understand children’s current access to healthy meals and enriching activity during the school holidays.

‘We want every child to reach their potential and healthy meals and activities can contribute to their development and improved attainment.’

The DfE said that evidence suggests that attending out-of-school activities can have a positive impact on children’s educational, health and well-being outcomes.

It said that the Holiday Activities and Food Research Fund would help to ensure that every child, whatever their background or wherever they are growing up has the opportunity to reach their potential.

The details of the fund follow the announcement earlier this year that the Government would undertake initial research this year.

In January, Labour MP Frank Field brought a private members’ bill to Parliament, which called for local authorities to have statutory responsibility for providing meals for disadvantaged children in the school holidays.

While it did not pass a second reading Mr Zahawi responded by saying that the Government would undertake new research and pilots to explore how best to help the most disadvantaged children to benefit from healthy meals and enriching activities during the school holidays.

To ensure the scheme is implemented effectively, the DfE said that ministers will work closely with Mr Field and expert stakeholders, as it develops.

Following the DfE announcement, Sharon Hodgson, chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on School Food tweeted, ‘The School Food APPG has been looking at this since 2013 & campaigners & I have been calling for it for a number of years now. This has been a long time coming as too many children return to school after the holidays tired & malnourished as they haven’t eaten for weeks.’

Rosie Oglesby, national director of Feeding Britain, a charity working to combat hunger and food poverty in the UK, said, ‘We think it’s a really positive step and shows that the Government is taking it seriously by putting a significant amount of money towards it. It recognises that children need to eat properly during the holidays.

‘It’s an opportunity to make it more systematic and make sure local authorities are involved consistently where it’s needed.’

Earlier this month, the DfE announced £26 million to set up or improve breakfast clubs in 1,700 schools in disadvantaged areas, to be funded through the soft drinks levy.

  • The bid round will close on Wednesday 18 April 2018. There will be a separate bidding process for participation in the 2019 Easter and summer pilots. Organisations can bid for the 2018 initial funding here https://www.gov.uk/contracts-finder
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