Holiday hunger projects under way in pilot areas

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Children from disadvantaged families will be able to access out-of-school activities and healthy meals for free this summer in a £2m pilot scheme funded by the Department for Education.

feeding-britain

A Feeding Britain project

Following the announcement of the scheme earlier this year, the Government is funding projects in seven organisations in the North East, Birmingham and London, aiming to reach 30,000 children.

The projects running throughout the school summer holidays will also provide free meals for the most disadvantaged families who may rely on the Free School Meals they receive during term-time.

Children will be able to take part in activities such as free football and cooking classes,and play sessions.

Children and Families Minister Nadhim Zahawi said, ‘For most pupils, the end of the school summer term signals the start of holidays, days out and a chance to make memories with friends and family. Other families, who might rely on the support provided by schools, are not so lucky.

‘These projects will provide a range of support for families during the summer break. They will also give children access to experiences that won’t just create great memories but will help broaden their horizons and build the confidence they need to succeed in whatever path they choose to follow.’

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

There are no strict eligibility criteria for families for this year’s scheme, but the DfE said that the programme has been specifically designed to help families that struggle in the school holidays.

This year’s scheme comes ahead of a targeted pilot programme, which will run in the 2019 Easter and summer holidays.

It aims to support children’s education by:

  • testing the effectiveness of interventions
  • looking at take-up of provision
  • identifying the costs involved
  • considering whether there are particular areas where this kind of programme would be most effective

Lindsay Graham, independent policy advisor who has campaigned on this issue, said, ‘The school holidays can be a challenging and costly time for families, particularly for those on a limited income or whose children are reliant on term time free school meals.

‘The need for community led enrichment opportunities for children, young people and their families is paramount for helping the most disadvantaged in our society. Early research in the UK is telling us that these types of projects can make a difference.’

Organisations that successfully bid for a share of this funding include Children North East, Family Action, Feeding Britain, Birmingham Holiday Kitchen, Onside Youth Zones, Street Games and TLG (Transforming Lives for Good).

Children North East is working with six local authorities and 16 primary and secondary schools to deliver activities for 500 children from five-to 14-years-old. The charity has asked the schools to identify the families that would benefit the most.

Holiday project lead Ailsa Fenwick told Nursery World, 'We provide a healthy lunch and snacks. We have Gruffalo-themed activities, through to camping, canoeing and bushcraft for older children. A lot of the schools are putting trips on open to family members and younger children.'

Feeding Britain will run 80 projects with activities ranging from archeological digs to zoo ranger visits.

The charity's national director Rosie Oglesby said, 'We know that holiday clubs make a huge difference to children and their families, not only by providing healthy and nutritious food, but also making sure that all children have access to fun activities. The summer holidays should be something to look forward to, but sadly for some families that isn’t always the case. These holiday clubs will help to ensure that all children enjoy their summer holidays.'

Last year, the All Party Parliamentary Group on Holiday Hunger published a report warning that 3 million children were at risk of holiday hunger.

Gary Lemon, director of policy and research at the food bank charity Trussell Trust, said the pilot was 'a great first step in supporting the work being done by communities to help families during the summer and will have a real, measurable impact on children across the country.

'At the same time, we must not lose sight of the underlying issues that leave families needing food banks at this time of year.

'To truly tackle hunger during the holidays we have to ensure every family has enough money coming in to cover essential costs.'

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 this work is implemented effectively, ministers will work closely with Mr Field and expert stakeholders, as it develops.

Mr Field, who is also chair of Feeding Britain, said, 'This programme represents the single biggest national effort in decades specifically to improve poorer children’s access to meals and activities during the holidays. Feeding Britain’s role to date, in gaining this programme, has been crucial. Now begins an even more significant task of finding out, and then developing into a universal service, the most effective ways of ensuring every child can eat well and have fun during the holidays.'

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