An innovative scheme launched last year in Yorkshire’s biggest city reduced the impact of “holiday hunger” on families and increased opportunities for children in the areas of greatest need.
Led by the Leeds Community Foundation (LCF) and funded by the city council, the Healthy Holidays project saw more than five tonnes of food distributed to families in the summer of 2018.
An estimated 33,000 children live in poverty in Leeds, with 22,000 eligible for free school meals.
Under the trial, community groups set up projects to provide activities and healthy meals through the summer holidays.
Organisations reported they were shocked by the level of need and demand for the food provided in their local communities.
Francesca Wood, healthy holidays coordinator for LCF, said: “Some projects were providing not just lunch, but breakfast or a mid-morning snack, or even dinner as well.
“Many could not turn away younger siblings or parents who also turned up hungry.
“And some of these children were either getting no meal at home, or cheap, highly unhealthy meals, such as a packet of crisps or bread and jam.”
This summer, having secured backing from the Department for Education (DfE) with a grant of £400,000, the charity is able to expand its reach.
As a result, alongside community organisations and hubs, 17 schools will open their doors and offer healthy meals alongside activities and support for families.
Kate Hainsworth, LCF chief executive, said: “Feeding children in school holidays is a growing challenge for parents. We know that returning to school in poor physical and mental condition can have a high detrimental impact on children’s wellbeing, as well as educational attainment.
“In 2019, with the support of our partners Leeds City Council, Asda Foundation, Fareshare, Re-thinking Food and the DfE, we have invested more than £550,000 in community organisations, schools and council one-stop hubs to reach families and children, who otherwise would not access support, and address holiday hunger through nutritious meals alongside sport, creative or social activities.”
This year the charity has also launched the GiveBradford Healthy Holidays Fund, which has seen more than £350,000 handed out to local groups to help some of the 17,000 school children needing support across Bradford.
Case study - New Wortley Community Centre
New Wortley Community Centre, in West Leeds, is running a Healthy Holiday programme for the second year, following the success of the funded scheme in 2018.
Entitled the ‘Boost’ project, the initiative is aimed at improving confidence, self-esteem and mental health through physical activity and creative arts, while encouraging a New Wortley ‘Children and Youth Family Meal’ session twice a week for families in need.
Last year children made food, including buns, wraps and pizza, and helped serve meals at a supper club.
Volunteer co-ordinator Scott Kaye said: “There was so much trouble with kids in the area in 2017 and last summer we didn’t see the same levels of problems.”