Why holiday clubs aren't just for summer

Why holiday clubs aren't just for summer

While many parents spent the Easter holidays trying to come up with fun things to do for their children – that pester at 8am on a Monday morning asking ‘what are we doing today Mum?’ filling them with dread – there is a growing number of families who have bigger concerns than forking out for a trip to the theme park.

On 25th April the Children’s Future Food Inquiry final report will be launched. It focuses on the food situation of children living in poverty across the UK and the event will be led by young Food Ambassadors, who will launch the report’s recommendations for tackling problems identified by the inquiry.

The Inquiry has for the first time, provided a voice for the estimated 4.1m children living in food poverty to be heard at Westminster.

But what is being done right now? Summer holiday clubs, which run in various forms across the UK but aim to provide a free meal combined with activities and access to other support services, are growing in number. So needed are they that schools, caterers and organisations are recognising that these clubs aren’t just for summer but are required during the Christmas and Easter holidays as well.

Fife Council launched a pilot scheme during the Easter holidays at the Café Inc lunch club, run in various venues in the Cowdenbeath and Lochgelly areas, at a cost of £400,000 across the year. The council provides Free School Meals to 9,000 pupils across Fife during term time.

“We are testing this initially in the Lochgelly and Cowdenbeath area and we’ll take on board any feedback before rolling this out across Fife during the summer holidays,” community and housing services convener, Labour councillor Judy Hamilton told The Courier. “The feedback from this Easter trial will help us to work out how best we can serve our communities and work out how best we can deliver this service to them.”
In Glasgow, more than 14,000 children accessed holiday hunger projects last summer and over Easter more than 70 groups were provided with funding to extend the projects by Glasgow City Council.

In Dudley, the council worked with Jessons Primary School and local organisations to run a café over the holidays where eligible pupils were given tokens to get lunch in one of four participating cafes in the town centre. The alternative pilot will be assessed to see how such schemes can be run in the future.
North Lanarkshire Council’s Club 365 programme also continues to do well.

The scheme was launched last year to not only tackle hunger in the holidays but at weekends as well. As part of the 2018/19 budget, the council committed to a further £1m investment following the overwhelming response from families.

“Our Club 365 initiative is making a big difference to families who need it most. The rollout is almost complete and we are committed to delivering the programme across North Lanarkshire’s communities,” said Cllr Frank McNally, convener of education.

The programme was piloted in Coatbridge last year and has since been rolled out to cover 23 hubs in Airdrie, Bellshill, Cumbernauld, Kilsyth, Moodiesburn, Motherwell, Shotts, Viewpark and Wishaw.

Kitchen Social, the holiday provision programme funded by the Mayor’s Fund for London and facilitated by Chartwells, has also been offering healthy lunches, teaching about healthy eating, skills development and social inclusion during the Easter holidays. Since launching in January 2017, it has engaged 100 hubs including youth clubs, schools, churches, adventure playgrounds and community centres across 23 boroughs and has helped to provide more than 50,000 meals to over 10,000 children.

While countless projects are making a huge difference to the lives of children and their families during the school holidays, there are still large pockets where such schemes don’t exist. What’s more, cuts to council budgets could threaten the continued provision of schemes, particularly regional and nationally run ones.

Research is being carried out to identify the provision of holiday clubs, with a new report published in the International Journal of Primary, Elementary and Early Years Education on the evidence of hunger in primary school settings by Northumbria University earlier this month.

By hearing the voices of young people experiencing food poverty and evaluating the impact of holiday programmes, perhaps more schemes will be created so that when the school gates close families don’t have to fear their children won’t have access to healthy, nutritious meals.