For many vulnerable and low income families, school holiday periods can be a time of stress, anxiety, and indebtedness, rather than fun, relaxing weeks where they get to spend quality time together. Some families face challenges and concerns around providing additional meals for their children out of school term time.
Families experiencing financial pressures are not only at greater risk of food insecurity, family stress, isolation, and poor health during the holidays, but they also miss out on the so-called social “enrichment activities” such as trips, sporting, cultural and learning activities enjoyed by better-off children.
Poverty is a growing concern across the sector and members are delivering a number of initiatives to mitigate the impact of poverty amongst their tenants and communities. This paper will be exploring the theme of food poverty over school holiday periods and the wider impact it has. You will find a number of best practice approaches adopted by our members – as well as the wider housing and community sector – around addressing some of the challenges faced by vulnerable and low income families during the school holidays.
The aim of this paper is not only to share best practice initiatives around tackling challenges over school holidays, but also to raise awareness of the wider impact of food poverty outside of term time and to encourage members to start thinking about the actions they and their local partners can take.
Child Poverty: The Facts
The proportion of children living in poverty in the UK has nearly doubled in the last 30 years: 3.5 million children live in poverty in the UK. Six in ten of these live in low income working families. This is having a significant impact on families already struggling to meet basic nutritional needs.
We are hearing more and more about the plight of poverty amongst children. It’s a shocking fact that an increasing number of children in England and Wales are going to school hungry. A recent report produced by Kellogg’s explored the impact of hunger in the classroom. The findings from this are based on a piece of research done by YouGov, who conducted more than 700 interviews with teachers across England and Wales.
Key findings of this report demonstrate:
- 2.4 pupils in every class in England and Wales will arrive at school hungry at least once a week.
- Around 8,370 schools in England have children arriving hungry or thirsty every morning.
- If a child arrives at school hungry, teachers say they lose one hour of learning time a day.
- If a child arrived at school hungry once a week they would lose 8.4 weeks of learning time (70% of a term) over the whole of their primary school life.
- 28% of teachers have witnessed an increase in children arriving at school hungry.
- The grip of hunger could potentially cost the English economy more than £5.2m a year through teachers losing teaching hours to cope with the needs of hungry children.
The Guardian UK Teachers Survey and Food for Thought Survey, which interviewed 600 teachers in June 2012, reported that:
- 83% of those surveyed stated that they saw evidence of pupil hunger in the morning at school.
- More than half of teachers (51%) say they often see pupils who seem to miss meals at home. More than one in six of these (17%) say they have seen an increase since the recession.
- Meals have a significant impact upon concentration, behaviour, and children’s ability to learn.
Kellogg’s hard to swallow facts about food poverty state that people are increasingly spending more on food but eating less nutritious options.
What is food poverty?
In the UK food poverty and hunger has become a increasingly worrying issue in light of the global financial crisis. There are more than 1,100 food banks in the UK and this is continuously growing to meet demand. And more and more food banks and community projects are reporting increases in families seeking access to food over the school holiday periods.
There is currently no established government measure of food poverty in the UK (unlike the measure of fuel poverty). This is despite the fact that the average UK household spends more than twice as much on food as it does on utilities.
A report by the Centre for Economics and Business Research defined households who have to spend more than 10% of their annual income on food as being in food poverty. The Food Ethics Council states that food poverty means that an individual or household isn’t able to obtain healthy, nutritious food: they have to eat what they can afford, not what they choose to.
Individual and household spending on food changes according to their situation, and some households that are struggling to make ends meet will cut back on their food expenditure, with some also skipping meals.
For many this means that those families in food poverty are often unable to give their children the best start to the day. Skipping meals can have a huge impact in a number of ways: from children not performing to their full potential at school, to not getting their vitamins, minerals, and the fibre that are essential for healthy growth.
School Holiday Food Poverty
The issue of food poverty is often exacerbated for families over the school holidays, when free school meals are not available. There are approximately 170 non-school days (including weekends) in the year in the UK that free school meal (FSM) pupils cannot access their entitlement to a school lunch, which often is the only hot meal that is available to them over the school term.
School provides around 190 days of education per year – meaning around 52% of a child’s time is spent at school – and those who are able to access additional nutritional support through the school term, such as free breakfast clubs and free school meals, are left without this support over the holidays. For many children that source of food that they rely heavily on is closed, which can have a number of implications on the child and their families.
A report published by Kellogg’s in conjunction with the Trussel Trust in August 2014 reported that school holidays leave children hungry for three meals a day. One in eight children don’t get enough to eat during the holidays with many returning to school noticeably thinner, according to teachers. The report found that school holidays – which should be a enjoyable time for families – place an extra burden on the food budget of a third of parents in the UK: 19% of parents struggle to feed their children three meals a day.
Last year the Trussel Trust saw food bank usage in August 2014 increase by over a fifth (21%) compared to the same time in June, before the holidays began. They expect this year’s figures to reflect a similar trend.
Children whose families experience financial pressures are at greater risk of food insecurity, family stress, isolation, and poor health during the holidays. Just as importantly, they also miss out on the so-called social “enrichment activities” such as trips, sporting and cultural activities enjoyed by ‘better-off’ children.
For over 100 years the issue of non-term time food provision has been identified but not addressed in the UK by government policy. It is fast becoming an issue of social concern that needs to be addressed.
The introduction of free school meals in September 2014 has been very welcome: the Universal Infant Free School Meals Policy where all infant pupils from reception to year two in England’s schools are entitled to a free hot meal at lunchtime every day.
Up until the policy was implemented around 367,000 children in this age group whose parents are on benefits or earn less than £16,190 have been eligible for free school meals.
Under this new policy an extra 1.55m children will be entitled to a free hot meal every lunchtime, bringing the eligible total to more than 1.9m young children. The scheme is expected to save parents about £400 per year per child.
The pupil premium is additional funding given to publicly funded schools in England to raise the attainment of disadvantaged pupils from reception to year eleven and close the gap between them and their peers.
The Government introduced a fund of £625 million in April 2011 to give schools £400 per year for children who:
- Were registered as eligible for free school meals.
- Had been looked after for six months or longer.
From April 2012 the pupil premium funding was extended to children eligible for free school meals at any point in the past six years. For the 2015 to 2016 financial year, funding for the pupil premium has increased to £2.545 billion.
All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) – Hunger & Food Poverty
Labour MP Frank Field established the All Party Parliamentary Group on Hunger and Food Poverty with Laura Sandys MP in October 2013 in order to proactively investigate the root causes behind hunger, food poverty, and the huge increase in demand for food banks across Britain. He also led the all-party parliamentary inquiry into hunger and food poverty alongside the Bishop of Truro, Tim Thornton.
The inquiry was set up in November 2013 to better understand the growing use of food banks and to consider how hunger in the UK can be eliminated.
The inquiry published its final report, titled Feeding Britain: A Strategy for Zero Hunger in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, in the House of Commons on Monday 8th December, gathering evidence on the extent and causes of hunger in Britain, as well as the scope of provision to alleviate it.
The housing sector, alongside local authorities and community and voluntary groups, are leading the way in tackling poverty across households and communities.
Food poverty over school holiday periods is becoming an increasing concern, however the issue and the impact is much wider: not only do families struggle to put an extra meal on the table, but the opportunities around play and leisure are limited – they exist at all. This can affect children’s wellbeing, educational opportunities, and learning, in addition to high cost childcare provision over the holidays allowing families/parents to continue to work.
Research states that children living in poverty dropped further behind their better-off peers when schools closed and they had no access to free school meals, and they were often physically and mentally unprepared for learning when they returned.
There is also some anecdotal evidence from teachers suggesting that some children come back to school less well nourished and in a poor state of school readiness than when they left, and they go backwards academically. All the learning and enrichment that children have gained through term time, and the great work of teachers and staff for many pupils, is lost over the longer school holidays.
Good practice examples: USA approaches
This section highlights a number of examples of initiatives to address the issues and challenges faced by many children and their families over the school holidays around addressing food poverty, learning, and social enrichment.
Lindsay Graham, a School Food and Health Policy Advisor, travelled to the USA to investigate community projects that address school holiday child hunger. Her Fellowship report was published in October 2014 and titled ‘170 Days’ – which is the approximate number of non-school days in the year in the UK that Free School Meal (FSM) pupils cannot access their entitlement to a school lunch.
The report follows Lindsay’s trip to the USA, visiting a number of established and innovative summer meals projects in nine USA states. Her aim was to research types of food provision, logistics, potential challenges, and community partnerships, as well as looking into how providers identify families in need of support.
The projects Lindsay visited ranged from small church-run community projects in Georgia, with 20 hot meals served in a family-style setting, to large truck runs in New York serving thousands of packed meals to queues of families all over the city.
The following case studies are taken from the report.
The Summer Food Service Programme (SFSP) in the US has evolved over the past four decades and is a federally funded, state administered programme which reimburses providers who serve healthy meals to children and teens in low income areas at no charge, mainly during the summer months when schools have finished for the summer break.
Georgia – Seamless Summer Feeding Mobile Stop
Within a small traditional community hall site outside Atlanta – The Alexander Chapel United Methodist Church in Georgia served by the central kitchen in a local High School hot and cold food placed in large transport boxes onto a fleet of trucks, cars and vans.
The program was created to ensure that children could continue to receive nutritious meals at no cost during summer vacation when they do not have access to the National School Lunch or School Breakfast Programs.
The mobile routes are a great way for children who do not have a way to get to one of the sites to still be able to receive a free and nutritious lunch.
Leadership for the site comes from the Church and youth volunteers, who also help with fun activities before lunch is served to the children.
This service ran from 2nd June – 18th July 2014, and 25,000 meals were served each week.
Kentucky Bus Stop Cafe
The Bus Stop Cafe is one of the innovations in the Summer Food Service Programme in Jefferson County School in Louisville Kentucky. The bus started out as a regular school bus collecting and dropping off children at school, then was decommissioned and taken over by the school meal service and adapted to provide summer meals on wheels. At a cost of around $55,000, the bus makes between 5 -11 stops per day, providing anything up to 600 meals to children in mobile home and housing scheme sites whom qualify to be part of the Bus Stop Cafe programme.
The Bus Stop Cafe initiative reaches out to those children and takes meals to children rather than expecting children to come to them, which can be a barrier for many in terms of affording transport to travel.
The Bus Stop Cafe has been so successful that a second bus was going into service towards the end of the summer of 2014.
This service was delivered from 10th June – 1st August 2014, and the total summer meals served by the service in 2014 was 20,277.
New York City – Ready2Go Trucks
New York City has been feeding children summer meals across its five boroughs for over 30 years. The service is run by the city’s Department of Education Office of School Food and has seen in the past year an increase of almost half a million meals. This has been partly due to a new truck which has been funded by the ‘No Kid Hungry’ national campaign, there are now four of these food trucks across the City.
New York City has 1000 sites with a mix of both static and mobile. The City starts planning for their various summer meals programmes from November.
This is one of the largest Summer Feeding Programmes across the US: the total number of meals served for the summer of 2014 was 8,000,000.
The programme work in libraries, schools, community centres, recreation sites both indoors and outdoors, soup kitchens, and anywhere youth activity programmes are held.
The service is well advertised throughout the city on transport, subway entries, radio, and through partner agencies, and also use well known sports personalities and chefs to highlight the programme, and badge it as ‘Summer Meals Rock’.
This service was held from 29th June – 26th August 2014.
Good practice examples: UK case studies
Kids Company is a third sector organisation in the UK funded in 1996 with the primary purpose of providing practical and emotional support to vulnerable children, young people and their families.
Kids Company works with the most vulnerable children and youth in the UK (mainly in London). Its services reach 36,000 children, young people and their families. Their clients typically experience severe developmental hardship, including being exposed to food insecurity, poverty, poor housing, violence and social exclusion to name a few.
Kids Company is advanced in their service delivery, employing a widely skilled team of professionals working at street level. The organisation creates a unique; ‘wraparound’ model of care for each child, so that all of their issues are addressed by one team in one place, without the need for referrals or waiting periods. They provide practical, emotional and educational support to vulnerable inner-city children.
Their services reach 36,000 children across London, Bristol and Liverpool, including the most deprived and at risk whose parents are unable to care for them due to their own practical and emotional challenges.
One of the key challenges for Kids Company’s children, young people and their families is around poverty; many of their clients face food insecurity, malnutrition and poor housing. They lack basic essentials and many cannot find enough to eat in their fridges and cupboards. Numerous clients have never experienced a family meal at the table.
- 85% rely on Kids Company for their main meal of the day
- 76% stated that they don’t manage to eat their 5 pieces of fruit or veg a day
- 64% stated that there is not always edible food in their fridge/cupboards
- 50% of the children reported that they often go to bed hungry
- 33% never ate breakfast.
- 33% said they mainly rely on being given money to eat from takeaways
The Kids Company approach provides support all year round, not just over the school holiday period and is driven by the child themselves who mostly refer themselves to the service. The charity feeds around 3000 children a week at its centres as well as providing emergency food parcels and vouchers to young people in need.
Poor diet and dysfunctional eating habits have a disastrous impact on the health and wellbeing of children, including lacking energy, suffer from poor general health and finding it difficult to learn and concentrate.
Another study conducted in 2012 among staff at 21 schools supported by Kids Company found that teachers held high levels of concerns about pupil’s nutrition. Staff members at nearly half of the schools felt that the majority of their pupils experienced food insecurity, with 88% of teachers considering that poor nutrition was having an impact on the children and affecting their ability to concentrate, in addition 79% reported poor nutrition was contributing to children’s negative behaviours.
The following case studies and statements offer heartbreaking insight into the suffering caused by food insecurity and poor nutrition. They also show how simple steps of providing food vouchers and regular meals help children and their families take massive strides towards improving their lives.
A teenager starves after family spirals into poverty
When she was 19-years-old Kerry regularly suffered without food so her eight year- old brother Jacob could eat.
Her sacrifice led to migraines, light-headedness, irritability and a distended stomach as her body cried out for sustenance. And while his sister went without food, Jacob’s diet mainly consisted of £1 chicken and chips, depriving him of the necessary nutrients to develop and grow.
Like many children who come to us, although he had food in his belly but was suffering from malnutrition. He still has extensive problems with his teeth and gums due to lack of vitamins, minerals and iron in his earlier childhood. It was the murder of the oldest son Steven, a diligent college student that triggered this family’s decline into shocking poverty.
As they struggled to cope with their grief, circumstances changed and they found themselves having to get back with very little money, suddenly feeding the children and providing basic necessities became a huge challenge. In the year-and-a-half that Kids Company has been working with this family, we have provided them with the practical and emotional support to help them survive and heal emotionally – from food vouchers to therapy.
Now the family are able to buy nutritious food and have regular meals, Kerry’s mood has stabilised, she is physically healthier and she is planning her future. Her younger brother is also doing well and forming positive friendships. There are many children who suffer the effects of malnutrition, and what may seem like a small gesture, such as weekly food vouchers, can have a lasting positive impact.
A ten-year-old carer to his disabled mother
David is a ten-year-old boy who cooks and does housework for his disabled mother. Her neurological condition means that she is wheelchair-bound and unable to hold a conversation. He is small for his age and talks in a little, quiet voice.
He wets and soils the bed and recently had a panic attack on a school trip. His father is often absent, his 22-year-old sister recently moved out following conflict with his father and he is looked after by his grandmother.
He has a Kids Company mentor now and eats regularly at one of their centres, experiencing a ‘family meal’ around a table with other children and supportive adults. While he is with Kids Company he can relax, take part in fun activities and experience his childhood free of the responsibility of looking after his mother.
Mama’ Cheryl has worked for us for seven years, first in a centre kitchen and now co-ordinating a mother’s support group called Women Aglow.
She said: “I’ve seen starving kids here. Children who don’t know when the next meal is coming, they come here and eat every single thing they can find and they always want more.
“Imagine living with three children between three houses, and you’ve missed meals for two days and you have to watch the children cry from hunger, knowing there is no food in the house. You are stressed, frustrated and angry every day. But they know and the children know that they won’t go hungry if they come here..
Sara, 12, regularly takes part in cooking sessions at the Kids Company therapeutic centre, The Heart Yard. As well as giving them a chance to learn fun, practical skills, the sessions teach the children about the importance of good nutrition.
“The cooking sessions here are really healthy. At Kids Company we have really balanced diets. They make sure we always finish our veg. They don’t mind so much if we don’t finish the other food, but if we don’t finish the veg we can’t get out of there! They persuaded me to try broccoli. I used to really hate it because it looked like little trees. But they said I couldn’t go until I tried it. When I did I really liked it. Now I like eating little trees.”
For further information please visit www.kidsco.org.uk
Kirklees Neighbourhood Housing: Summer Play Scheme Programme
Who they are:
Kirklees Neighbourhood Housing is an Arms Length Management Organisation owned by Kirklees Council and responsible for managing approximately 23,000 council tenancies. KNH’s mission statement is ‘Quality Homes in Successful Communities’ and has a community engagement team to help make a meaningful contribution to the development of successful communities.
The team have evolved from traditional resident involvement to community development practice over a four year period and now has a broad portfolio of activity aimed at producing social value and fostering and facilitating local led community development.
Where the idea of school holiday play schemes came from:
Interestingly, the idea for school holiday play schemes originated with an initiative called ‘KNH Kids’ which involved KNH staff delivering a week long Key Stage 2 Personal, Social and Health Education programme within a selected number of junior and infants schools. This led to a member of the community engagement team running a ‘summer school’ which was an attempt to run a similar programme of activities on a more informal basis.
The idea of providing children with something to do during school holidays proved popular with residents and with elected members but the community engagement manager was unhappy with the format and it was decided that a programme of play schemes would be developed using professional play work principles to engage children and to support their social, emotional and physical development.
Current levels of provision:
They currently facilitate in the region of six to eight play schemes during the summer months. We have also run schemes or events on an ad-hoc basis during other school holiday periods. To put this into context they also commission weekly term time provision on five estates using professional providers and work with community groups to deliver their own play and youth work provision. The team also run a number of other initiatives to engage children including gardening clubs often in conjunction with volunteers. So working children and young people is something KNH is very committed to.
Funding for the play schemes:
The play schemes don’t have a dedicated budget and run on a combination of KNH funding, external grants, contributions in kind from agencies (equipment or staffing time) and volunteer time. This year the Community Engagement Manager looking for corporate sponsors for the summer programme.
Resourcing the play schemes:
KNH draw upon the support of other agencies to help facilitate activities including community policing teams, council youth work and sports development teams and voluntary and community sector partners. If the team can work with a community sector organisation such as a social enterprise to draw down funding to pay for their services we will do so. The team of four KNH community engagement workers play the facilitator/ coordinator role for each of the play schemes and that is the principle resource implication for KNH.
As part of this programme of work there is always the provision of healthy meals, although the team have taken a variety of approaches over the past three years. One play scheme included activities to raise farm to fork awareness of the origin of food, the drawing up of a menu for the week and involved the children in preparing their own food much of it sourced from a community allotment.
However, more typically they will provide breakfast (a feature we introduced last summer due to previous experience of children attending schemes in a state of hyper activity caused by having not breakfast at all or sweets and fizzy drinks) and lunches. They either buy packed lunches from small local businesses or encourage volunteers to make lunches in support of the scheme.
Physical and social development
The play schemes started with a basic menu of physical activities mostly ball sports and track and field type athletics. However, over the past two years we have introduced forest school style activities; geocaching, mini-beast hunts, pond dipping, den building. They have also used local outdoor activity centres to give our children a taste of adventure play for example climbing and caving. Other, activities including crafts, cook n eat, cake decorating, cycling and street dance are standard. Many of the activities have a strong team building element and we aim to encourage the children to develop their social skills and emotional intelligence.
Whilst many of the activities are in themselves enriching experiences, the play schemes usually end with some form of celebration off the estate; for example a trip to a bowling alley and a meal. For many children this may form the highlight of their summer holiday.
Involving the Community
Increasingly the team are recruiting local volunteers – often parents – to work and learn alongside their staff and partners, to plan, provision and run the schemes. In a small number of instances they have funded and supported local organisations – e.g. local sports clubs – to run the play scheme on our behalf.
The team are very keen to use play schemes as a means of engaging local communities and developing individual volunteers and groups some of whom have then gone on to set up their own youth groups or put on events such as Halloween or Christmas parties for children in their community. For example volunteers who helped organise and run a play scheme on the Town Estate in Huddersfield have since taken on running a junior youth club from the local community centre, have organised several community events for children and parents including a very successful event celebrating the diverse nature of the community.
A specific example of community involvement – One play scheme (Cowlersley in Huddersfield) was designed around the local tenant and resident association and local school’s shared concern regarding local road safety issues. The play scheme included cycling proficiency, bike maintenance, bike riding, working alongside the police to learn about the dangers of speeding and to take part in speed testing and the production of a large banner to promote safe driving and parking – which is now displayed outside the local school. The scheme was supported by local volunteers who made the lunches, a range of partners including the police, a social enterprise that supplied bikes and proficiency training, the school that opened up the school yard to facilitate the cycling and a voluntary sector youth work provider that helped with the creative arts sessions.
In addition to the standard play scheme model that will continue to run the team are hoping to trial an ‘Art Camp’ where they will be able to offer a week long creative experience for children which will stimulate imaginative play, creative problem solving and increased self-esteem facilitated by a community artist. They are also looking for ways to enable children on our estates to access forest school based play.
See the below YouTube video for some audio visual material relating to our 2012 programme:
For further information please contact Darren Wilson, Community and Engagement Manager, email@example.com
Kellogg’s Pilot Holiday Breakfast Club Programme
Kellogg’s has developed and supported school breakfast clubs for 16 years and last year started to explore the opportunity to expand their programme out of school.
So during the summer of 2014, Kellogg’s launched a pilot Holiday Breakfast Club programme to help support children and families in need. The clubs were held in a variety of venues including schools, community centres and food banks and provided the vital food and social activities that many children need over the school holidays.
This is all part of Kellogg’s global CSR programme – Breakfasts for Better Days – which addresses hunger relief in the communities it operates in.
Research conducted by Kellogg’s last year revealed that 39 per cent of the teachers interviewed said that there are pupils in their school that do not get enough to eat over the school holidays. Of this 39 per cent, more than a third (36 per cent) of teachers notice children coming back after the holidays with signs of weight loss and 77 per cent have seen a noticeable difference in their readiness to learn when they return for the new term.
Kellogg’s worked in partnership with the Mayor’s Fund for London, The Trussell Trust and the Community Foundation for Manchester, in addition to providing cereal for the Holiday Kitchen project run by Ashram Housing Association.
The pilot supported 15 breakfast clubs, which ran for five weeks over the summer holidays. Some of these clubs ran again during the October half term and the Christmas holidays too.
Below are some quotes from those who hosted the breakfast clubs:
“(The scheme) helps us to ensure that children are offered a healthy breakfast without a cost to our provision and the parent.”
“The children seemed much more engaged and alert. The need to sneak food from their lunch boxes was reduced.”
“(The scheme) was of benefit for offering extended day childcare to working families.”
“There is an increased number of users who attend Shoreditch adventure playground (SAP) for breakfast club, who would normally attend our scheme later on in the day after lunch (20% increase of users before 12 noon). Breakfast club users no longer eat their packed lunches before lunch times. Having breakfast at sustains them until a more appropriate lunch time.”
The main reasons parents sent their children to the schemes was for childcare, for the children to try new activities and for them to receive a free breakfast. 9 out of 10 parents stated that for them it was important that the breakfasts were provided free of charge and 84% believe the breakfast club is helping them financially.
Providing breakfast clubs over the school holidays has real positive benefits and makes a real difference to children and their families, some of which include:
- Increased attendance levels to the summer clubs/activity programmes
- Improved alertness and increased concentration levels
- Improving learning and development
- Providing a healthy start to the day
- Improving nutrition and wellbeing
- Reaching out to those who would benefit and attracting them to attend the clubs and activity who would otherwise not have attended, benefiting socially and emotionally.
Initial findings are very positive and Kellogg’s is very keen to roll out a UK wide holiday breakfast club programme in 2015 and are currently looking for partners to achieve this.
A full evaluation report of the Holiday Breakfast Pilot Programme is currently being prepared by ‘Healthy Living’ at Northumbria University and will be published in due course.
For further information please contact Kate Prince, Corporate Social Responsibility Manager, Kellogg’s UK, Kate.Prince@kellogg.com
Greater Manchester Housing Providers: Holiday Hunger Projects
The Greater Manchester Poverty Action Group
Following the evidence base and recommendations of the Greater Manchester Poverty Commission’s (GMPC) report of February 2013, the Greater Manchester Poverty Action Group launched early in 2014. Around 40 organisations from across the private, public and third sectors are members of the Poverty Action Group, including Housing Providers, Local Authorities, voluntary organisations and charities.
One of the recommendations that the Greater Manchester Housing Providers group have signed up to is to tackle the issue of food poverty across the Manchester area, which includes the growing issue of food poverty over the school holidays and the wider impact of this. Some of the housing providers across Manchester are in the planning stages of providing food and/or activities over the school holidays this year or delivered projects last year, these included:
- City West Homes – Who are in the planning stages of working with one of their residents associations to provide packed lunches to local children over the school holiday period. The housing provider is currently in the process of looking for funding for this project with a view to pilot in the May half term and then refine in time for summer 2015.
- First Choice Homes Oldham – worked with Alt Community Challenge Team (ACCT) made up of local residents to set up a breakfast club over the summer holiday which fed over 80 local children per day with breakfasts donated by Kellogg’s.
The Alt Community Group holiday breakfast club in Oldham is one of fourteen pilot schemes sponsored by Kellogg’s, aimed at helping families whose children usually receive a free school meal or breakfast.
The club, which is based in community space donated by First Choice Homes Oldham, has around 40 attendees each day, and is also a place for people to meet and children to play in a safe environment.
The scheme is part of Kellogg’s Help Give a Child a Breakfast initiative, which aims to feed 80,000 families in need every day.
In a separate project First Choice Homes Oldham provided subsidised places for over 240 children in the BGreen target area to attend full day summer school activities provided by Oldham Community Leisure Services (OCL) from the sports centre. They engaged with a wide range of sporting activities for a minimum charge, breakfasts were provided for all the children by the Oldham Food Bank. Free annual passes were all given to the children participating by OCL.
- Bolton Lunches – during the 2014 school summer holidays, with support from Bolton Council, Bolton at Home and hundreds of individual volunteers, the local food bank run by Urban Outreach 14,000 packed lunches were provided to children and young people from low income families who received free school meals during term time but struggles to make ends meet during the long summer holidays.
Lunches consisted of ham, cheese or tuna rolls, a carton or juice, a fruit bar, packet of mini cheese biscuits and an apple. An army of volunteers assembled at 7am to make nearly 600 lunches every weekday, which was enlisted by Urban Outreach. These were then distributed out to 12 children’s centres and community venues across Bolton in a refrigerated van and collected by families who need them.
The project was put together in a matter of weeks after concerns were raised about what would happen to the 900 children across Bolton who would normally receive a free school meal over the school term.
The Chief Executive of Urban Outreach Dave Bagley said “the issue is that for many of these families they rely on free school meals. When they are receiving them for most of the year they perhaps don’t factor the summer holidays into their budgets……….the majority of the families using the lunch project were those with low income working parents, including many zero hours contracts……”
The scheme which was set up to feed the poorest school pupils over the summer holidays, and was hailed as a ‘brilliant success’ after an average of 600 children per day receiving a free lunch.
For further information please contact Julie Ralph, Policy Analyst, Bolton at Home Julie.firstname.lastname@example.org
Ashrammoseley Housing Association: Holiday Kitchen
Based on a simple formula of Holiday learning, food and play for families who need it Ashrammoseley Housing Association took action to address local holiday challenges in the key low income neighbourhoods in which they work and launched Holiday Kitchen in 2013. This was supported by initial Children in Need seed funding. The programme is co-delivered through local partners that work directly with low income and vulnerable families with pre and primary school age children.
Over the last two years the programme has delivered over 5300 activity days with meals to 800 participants. It has worked with 19 delivery partners plus an array of community outreach and support agencies in Birmingham, North Solihull and Sandwell to achieve this.
Holiday Kitchen recognises that a nutritious diet and active learning and play are cornerstones upon which wider health and educational outcomes are built. Poor nutrition, social isolation, emotional and financial family stress during holiday periods can undermine children’s school readiness, cognitive functioning, well-being and social integration beyond school holiday periods and for vulnerable and neglected children, these challenges can be even more acute.
Holiday Kitchen works to complement government investments to meet Child Poverty commitments laid out in the 2010 Child Poverty Act by providing a structured programme of meals and enrichment activities for children during the 25 percent of the year when schools and related support services, including Free School Meals and school clubs, are not available. The programme is supported by Public Health England, Kellogg’s, England’s Illegal Money Lending Team, Family Action, local commissioners, volunteers and caterers.
Rooted within the NEFs Five Ways to Wellbeing principles, the programme’s vision is to help children thrive throughout the year. To achieve this it focuses on achieving positive outcomes linked to three core objectives:
- Improved social inclusion and aspiration – related outcomes include improved school readiness and reduced opportunity gaps for social participation.
- Improved family nutrition and wellbeing – related outcomes include reduced food poverty, obesity and poor mental health.
- Reduced financial and emotional strain – related outcomes include reduced debt, social services referrals and safeguarding risks.
In 2014 the Holiday Kitchen operated through existing local infrastructure and was delivered across community sites by partners who work directly with low-income and vulnerable families, children and young people.
The programme required families to register and commit to eight half days of Holiday Kitchen activities spread across 2-4 weeks over the summer of 2014 in a local participating centre. Some of the centres delivered activities in the morning, some in the afternoon and one of the youth programmes delivered activities between 9am-8pm. Breakfasts were all cereal, milk and fruit juice, with some centres offering additional items. Lunch catering varied from buffet style catering by educational caterers to packed lunches from sandwich shops. Two of the centres supported make and taste self-catering where participants made their own lunches.
A core commitment of the programme is to deliver to families who need it most. This has been achieved through working with local referral networks and family support teams.
The project’s achievements included:
- Providing 5300 packed and 1800 breakfasts
- Worked with 800 children and families across three local authorities
- Provision of 8 half days of active learning and play activities
- 3 pop up picnics
- 11 day trips for 285 participants
- 19 delivery partners
- Inter-agency work with referral agencies and family support teams
- Corporate sponsorship
- Raised policy and media profile of the challenges over the school families for low income and vulnerable families and their children
The Holiday Kitchen Evaluation team led by Birmingham City University have produced an evaluation report of Holiday Kitchen, summer 2014, which highlights not only that this type of programme works but also the great need for projects like this over the school holidays.
The findings indicate that the Holiday Kitchen met the following short term aims for children:
- Reduced opportunity gap;
- Increased physical activity;
- Improved opportunities for family bonding and learning outside the home;
- Improved nutrition.
For the medium term there was some evidence from children, parents and staff that it improved children’s wellbeing and raised aspirations, and longer term may reduce obesity, health and education inequalities amongst participating children.
A key overriding aim for families was to reduce food poverty, and this was achieved through this programme over the short term. 90% of the research sample of parents/carers felt that they and their children benefitted from the breakfasts provided; and 85% of their children benefited from the lunches, and parents also reported an average 15% improvement on their ability to provide healthy meals at home for their children.
One of the club providers said “the holiday kitchen benefitted the service users as it was a constant source of food; they knew that when they attended an activity they were going to be fed. This was especially important for mothers as it took the financial strain off them to provide money or food for trips”
The feedback from residents has been overwhelmingly positive with 94% of families reporting that they had undertaken more activities out of the home than normal during holiday period.
One mother said: ‘The kids loved everything about our day out. They let their energy out, and just enjoyed being kids. As a mum, that is the most precious thing and the happiness is priceless. It gave me confidence and security and the will power to go out by ourselves.’ Another parent added: ‘Having activities and food provided has helped my family budget. It’s a long six weeks’ holiday and it’s good to have activities and food for my son. I know he is safe and eating well.’
Quotes from the children:
“my food made me really energetic and really happy”
“I liked that it filled me up, it was really tasty”
This model has been presented as a national exemplar to multiple national voluntary and statutory agencies including the Westminster Social Policy Forum, Public Health England and the Deputy Prime Minister.
Through this project and approach adopted much was learnt around the need for effective central co-ordination of activities, additional resource requirements, training needs, quality standards, monitoring and evaluation, sponsorship and communication with media, commissioners and policy makers. At the same time, it is clear from the learning and experience of this project that those delivering frontline services are best placed to tailor a programme to meet the cultural, social, diet, health, educational needs and priorities of local people.
The value of this programme is captured in a concluding statement in the programme’s evaluation by, Birmingham City University: ‘Holiday Kitchen is an extremely effective programme for meeting the needs of low-income children and families during holiday periods and, relationally, in addressing the Child Poverty agenda laid out in the 2010 Child Poverty Act.’
Over the last two years Holiday Kitchen has been positively received by Public Health Services, children services, child poverty practitioners, local families, media channels and many more. Building on this learning and success of the programme the core partnership team are in the process of developing a toolkit and the support infrastructure to scale up and replicate delivery in low-income neighbourhoods across various locations in England.
The full evaluation report can be downloaded http://accordgroup.org.uk/filemanager/resources/hk_bcu_report.pdf
For further information on the Holiday Kitchen please contact Dr Caroline Wolhuter, Head of Social Inclusion, Ashrammoseley, part of the Accord Group: Caroline.Wolhuter@ashrammoseleyha.org.uk
Middlesbrough: Hope 4 Summer
Hope 4 Summer was organised by Together Middlesbrough, part of the Church
Urban Fund Together Network www.cuf.org.uk/together-middlesbrough The project worked in partnership with:
- Local churches across Middlesbrough, which provided the venues, volunteers and resources to run holiday activities
- Middlesbrough Food Bank, which provided non-perishable food items for healthy snacks and packed lunches
- Middlesbrough Council, providing funding to Middlesbrough Food Bank to purchase extra food items
- Safe Families for Children, which referred vulnerable families that needed extra support during the school holidays
Background to the project
For many families the summer holidays are a struggle with the children at home 24/7 and no free school meals, so the weekly budget has to stretch further for food and there is little left for activities and treats. During summer 2013 Middlesbrough Food Bank saw a 40% increase in demand for support for families and Safe Families for Children also had a big rise in referrals as vulnerable families struggled to cope.
The vision of Hope 4 Summer was for a grass-roots community based response to support families during the summer holidays. Together Middlesbrough works with local churches to tackle issues of poverty, and so churches based in areas of significant deprivation across Middlesbrough that were already working with children and families were approached to take part in the project.
Planning and training
Representatives from local churches gathered in April 2014 to discuss the project and plan activities. Each church agreed to run holiday activities in their local community for either 1-2 weeks or for 1-2 days each week throughout the six weeks of the summer holidays. By working in partnership holiday activities were co-ordinated to ensure activities were happening somewhere in Middlesbrough each week of the summer holidays.
Each church put together a team of staff and volunteers to plan and run their activity programme, support was provided from the York Diocese Youth & Children’s advisers and a training programme for volunteers was organised by Together Middlesbrough to provide training in safe guarding, paediatric first aid and coping with challenging behaviour.
Project details and costs
A grant of £5,000 from Church Urban Fund was used to fund the project, each church received £600 to cover the costs of running the holiday activities, the remainder of the budget was used for meetings, training and evaluation.
Each church agreed how many children they could work within each session, based on safeguarding and best practice in terms of volunteer numbers and size of venue. Sessions ran for 2-4 hours per day with 25-50 children aged 5-11 years per session depending on the capacity agreed by each church. Sessions were either free or cost no more than 50p per session. Each session offered a range of themed activities e.g. arts, crafts, sports, games, music, drama and the children received healthy packed lunches and snacks.
All the holiday clubs had a strong theme, which allowed children attending to enjoy an imaginary adventure to another world e.g. Harry Potter, Treasure Island, Around the World, and Finding Nemo.
The holiday clubs were advertised in local schools and community venues using fliers and posters and many churches arranged to go into their local schools to do an assembly to help promote the project. Safe Families for Children and Middlesbrough Food Bank were able to refer families into the project and Middlesbrough Strategic Partnership promoted the project.
Outcomes and impact
Each church was asked to evaluate their programme of activities and representatives of all the churches met in September to evaluate the Hope 4 Summer project. Key outcomes can be summarized as follows:
- The project worked with over 400 children and families
- Most families accessed the project through local contacts and promotion in schools
- Most churches were able to attract new volunteers to help with the project either from the local community or Middlesbrough College or Teesside University
- Feedback about the holiday club themes was extremely positive, children and parents loved the imaginary worlds that were created
- Parents were extremely positive about the provision of low/no-cost activities based in their communities
- The provision of healthy snacks and packed lunches was really enjoyed by the children and parents reported this helped with their tight budgets.
“My kids came home happy and tired and slept really well, the best gift you could have given me”
“My wife died last year and this is my first summer on my own with the children, 45 days off school feels like such a lot for me to fill. This holiday club has really helped and is building up a store of happy memories for them after so much sadness.”
“I’m a local mum and volunteering with the holiday club is giving me something really positive to do with my children.”
“If there was no holiday clubs I couldn’t afford to do anything with the kids, because I wouldn’t have enough money to do anything with them.”
“Communities have broke down to what they used to be, so bringing the families and kids back together …..it can only be good.”
“I’m a single parent, I don’t drive and this is just round the corner so it’s easy to come along.
Hope 4 Summer was a great way of getting churches working together and also with their local communities. Every church that took part reported that they had new children and families coming along that they had not worked with before, and it inspired local mums and grandmas to get involved with volunteering. The model of a grass roots response, working with communities to help themselves seems to have worked.
Tackling wider challenges around learning and development over the holidays
The model of providing food within the context of holiday activities, means that the children were also able to access learning and activities and gain new skills in drama, music, sports, art and some churches also ran a trip to allow the children to visit somewhere outside of their community.
Role of housing providers and partners in tackling food poverty and the gap over school holidays
I think the model of using churches has worked well, as each community has a church within it with facilities i.e. hall, kitchen etc. Parents valued the holiday clubs being based in their local community so they didn’t have to worry about transport. Each church already had safeguarding policies and procedures in place and a pool of staff/volunteers already working with children and families e.g. Sunday School, brownies, boys brigade, after school clubs. We were able to access support from church resources e.g. children’s and youth advisors, safeguarding training etc. at little or no cost.
Working with Middlesbrough Food Bank allowed us to bulk buy food items keeping costs low, and it was fantastic that the local authority sponsored the cost of the non-perishable food items.
All the churches that took part during 2014 are hoping to provide similar activities for 2015 and the project have had expressions of interest from other churches too. A film has been produced about the Hope 4 Summer programme which can be viewed here
For further details please contact Heather Black, Development Officer, Together Middlesbrough, email@example.com
Make Lunch at Lifecentre Salford
The Lifecentre is on Langworthy Road in Langworthy, Central Salford. This area is in the bottom 5% most deprived wards in the country and is in the top 10 areas for Child Poverty. There are many fantastic people in Langworthy facing some real challenges in the form of poverty, crime, addictions, violence and unemployment. With benefit changes and the level of personal debt, many people in the area are finding it difficult to feed their families and Make Lunch is one part of the solution to that.
Make Lunch is a social franchise of which Lifecentre Salford is a part. Right across the country churches and community projects linked to churches, are trying to stop the holiday hunger gap by providing hot meals to children during the school holidays. In the Primary School located behind the Lifecentre over 60% of children receive Free School Meals, during the school holidays these children are at risk of or do, go without food because of the cost of providing meals. The Lifecentre started Make Lunch in July 2014 to help reduce this problem.
Make Lunch provides a two course hot meal to children who receive Free School Meals and are referred to the centre as ‘in need’ by the local Primary School. Lifecentre Salford have space for 20 children to come, and usually run 3 sessions a week from 11.45-2.30pm. The children have a hot meal around tables and then engage in activities with the volunteer leaders. These activities include craft, drumming and dj workshops, rugby coaching and sports, indoor and outdoor games, cookery and loom bands. This gives Lifecentre Salford the opportunity to get to know the children and provide them with the time to talk and share. The volunteers are drawn from the local community and local churches. This year Lifecentre Salford have had over 30 different volunteers involved, a full age range from teenagers to those who are in their retirement. This promotes social capital for the children they are supporting who are forming a wider network of trusted adults to offer them support.
Make Lunch is an approved social franchise by the Cinnamon Network so they applied to them for a start-up grant of £1500. They received matched funding for this in the form of room hire costs, salary costs for the project manager and managed to secure £1000 from One Stop towards the delivery of the project. As this funding is relatively small and the centre will only be funded by the Cinnamon Network for their first year they are always looking for partner agencies who recognise the value of this work and want to work with them.
To become a Make Lunch project you must complete Food Hygiene training, have a Child Protection policy and Public Liability insurance. This is to ensure the project you are delivering with volunteers is of a professional standard. All volunteers must have a current DBS check.
Make Lunch has had extremely positive feedback from the local school, children and parents involved. Many of the children gave it 10/10 for the amount they enjoyed it over the summer and the parents have made a number of comments about how much the children enjoy coming along. The school is very keen to ensure that Make Lunch is utilised as they see the effectiveness of what is being done. They also recognise that for many of the most vulnerable children it is a place of safety, they usually find in school, when school is closed.
Lifecentre Salford would love to expand Make Lunch, particularly over the long summer holidays, to provide for a much larger group of the 60% of children on Free School Meals. At present this is constrained by their resources, both financial and in terms of volunteers, but their vision would be to provide for 50 children and be based in the local primary school during the summer holidays. They will be working towards this and looking for partners over the coming months.
For further information please contact Beth Myring, Lifecentre General Manager firstname.lastname@example.org.
Evaluation and impact of existing and future programmes
Some of the projects that have hosted holiday activities including food, play and learning to mitigate some of the holiday challenges have carried out evaluations around the effectiveness of these initiatives, and the positive difference they make to children and their families.
The Holiday Kitchen initiative pioneered by Asrammoseley part of the Accord Group referenced earlier in this paper carried out an evaluation around the effectiveness of such a programme and the difference the Holiday Kitchen made to local children and their families.
Some of the findings from the evaluation included:
- Reducing food poverty over the short term – with children benefitting from having a breakfast and/or lunch over the holiday periods
- Reducing some of the opportunity gaps
- Increased physical activity amongst the children
- Improved opportunities for family bonding and learning outside the home
- Improved nutrition
- Some evidence around the short term aim of increased exposure to reading and language development
- Improved wellbeing
- Raising aspirations
- Helping those on the frontline delivering school holiday food and activity programmes to progress with their targets around health and wellbeing and school readiness
- Increasing reach and uptake of the programmes, and increased reputation.
- Contributing to local and national child poverty strategies
The Mayors Fund for London Holidays breakfast club pilot in 2014 found that there was a clear positive impact of the pilot which was evidenced through:
- The attendance levels at breakfast time increasing once breakfast provision was introduced
- Play scheme staff and parents seeing improved alertness in the children
- Providing a nutritious breakfast and a healthy start to the day to children who otherwise would have skipped breakfast or had an unhealthy one
- Helping attract children to the clubs who would otherwise have nothing to do over the holidays
- A total of 2,678 breakfasts were delivered across the five holiday clubs in the 2014
There was an overwhelming demand for the provision to continue from all children, parents and the holiday club staff/managers .
Healthy Living – Northumbria University
Currently researchers at Healthy Living, a research unit at Northumbria University are working on developing a robust school holiday feeding evaluation framework employing a number of valid and reliable measures that are sensitive to nutritional and physical activity manipulations.
It is important to establish a robust framework so that the efficacy of interventions from across the UK can be assessed. At the current time the small numbers of studies that have been carried out in the UK have relied primarily on anecdotal data.
For studies that have used other measurement tools, e.g. questionnaires, very few have reported inferential statistics, often due to small sample sizes. Hence, currently it is difficult to conclude whether interventions have resulted in statistically significant changes in, for example, physical activity and improved nutrition in the populations under study. Of course the voices of key stakeholders are equally important but again more research is needed in this area in order to fully utilise this rich source of data.
Through adopting a thematic analyses approach key themes and sub-themes can be identified that will inform both practice and research. Finally through collecting data under a common research framework, with standardised measurement tools, models of good and effective practice at both a national and local level, incorporating SROI calculations within the UK will be able to be clearly identified.
There is increasing evidence that food poverty is very much on the increase with more families and households struggling to put food on the day and provide three ‘nutritious’ meals. Alongside this is the growing concern of food poverty over the school holidays for children who would usually be entitled to a free school meal over term time, and the burden and worry of providing an extra meal over the school holidays on families.
This paper demonstrates the great work being done across the UK and USA around tackling this issue and also highlights the wider impact of not having enough food over school holidays (and for some this is their experience over term time) but also the loss of learning and social enrichment that many children are faced with.
NHC would urge their members and their wider partners to develop a school holiday food and activity programme over this year’s school holidays, and for those whom are already delivering a programme of work around this to expand it further.
Below a few points for members and wider partners to consider for setting up any kind of school holiday food and activity provision:
- Map and identify current school holiday provision in the area
- Identify gaps with current provision and always ensure food and activity is part of the programme
- Co-ordinate schemes wherever possible, identifying appropriate partners and what their role would include
- Identify resources and training needs required
- Ensure provision is targeted to those whom need it most and marketed effectively through other agencies and schools, with appropriate lead in time
- Share your approach wider
- Evaluate and monitor
The NHC would like to hear from members around any programmes members and your wider partners are involved in/planning around tackling challenges over the school holidays. The NHC will also be organising a one day practitioner workshop in April around this theme, further details to follow.
The NHC would also like to thank everyone who contributed to this paper.
This paper was produced by Satty Rai, Policy Services Manager. You can contact Satty at email@example.com.