Healthy Holidays scheme brings forward plans to help feed hungry children across Leeds

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A scheme which operates during the school holidays to provide support to vulnerable families is being brought forward.

Normally the Healthy Holidays programme, from the Leeds Community Foundation (LCF), at this stage of the year would be planning a programme of summer holiday events from mini football tournaments to arts and crafts and day trips with food for families.

However, in the last fortnight as schools have gone into lockdown to try and slow the spread of coronavirus and social distancing has been brought in, workers have had to quickly work out new ways to engage with local families that need support. It is being particularly aimed at families who rely on free school meals and breakfast clubs and can't afford to feed children while they are at home for this new prolonged period.

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Meals such as packed lunches or a hot takeaway meal, and food parcels are being made available at designated pick up points across the city. If people are self-isolating and can't get out drop-offs are being arranged.

CATCH Leeds is one of the groups that has been gathering goods to make up food parcels.CATCH Leeds is one of the groups that has been gathering goods to make up food parcels.
CATCH Leeds is one of the groups that has been gathering goods to make up food parcels. | other

It comes as Healthy Holidays research says that one out of three parents they work with skip a meal so they can feed children, and two thirds say they struggle to put food on the table during the holidays.

Francesca Wood, the Healthy Holidays co-ordinator for LCF, said: "There is a wider issue about kids in poverty and this system, literally, caters for these children. Leeds City Council, Leeds Community Foundation, the foodbanks, Fareshare and community groups have been working together to make sure that these families access food parcels.

"It has been hard work but really gratifying that we can pool our resources."

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Much of the work of Healthy Holidays is about providing emotional support to families and activities for children that otherwise may be stuck at home during the school holidays. While that can't happen in the usual way of holding an event at a single point, the organisations involved are reaching out in a different way by sharing activity tips, handing out journals and colouring books for art and craft activities and dropping off sports equipment for street games.

Outdoor activities for families at events last year.Outdoor activities for families at events last year.
Outdoor activities for families at events last year. | other

Ms Wood added: "Community groups are being very creative about how they get in touch either on the phone, whatsapp or video conferences - or having a chat when they drop off. People are feeling isolated, their anxiety levels are shooting up and it is important they have that connection."

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