A programme providing good quality meals, nutrition skills and sports education to children in socially deprived areas of Cardiff has been honoured at this year’s NHS Wales Awards.
Cardiff and Vale University Health Board won the Improving Health and Wellbeing and Reducing Inequalities Award (supported by Welsh Local Government Association) for its Food and Fun programme, which was piloted during the school holidays in summer 2015.
The awards ceremony, on Friday 23 September, celebrated and recognised areas of good NHS practice across Wales.
Collecting the award at Cardiff’s Mercure Holland House, the team were thrilled with their win.
“We are so excited to win this award,” said Emma Holmes, Clinical Lead for Public Health Dietetics. “The success is due to a dedicated local partnership and is a great example of how we can work together to reduce inequalities in health.”
Some families can find the summer break challenging. For children, it can mean long days without their school friends, while parents may feel the financial pressures from childcare and extra meal-times.
During the six-week break some children are known to skip meals, a problem known as ‘holiday hunger.’
This is why schools across Cardiff opened their gates last summer and welcomed children back for healthy meals, physical activity, food education and fun activities.
The programme was so successful that it was launched again this year. Its success has seen four other local authorities acrosWales adopt the model, including Wrexham and the Vale of Glamorgan.
Cardiff’s Food and Fun was delivered across 10 schools this year by Food Cardiff, a partnership between local organisations including Cardiff and Vale University Health Board, City of Cardiff Council and Public Health Wales.
Katie Palmer, who heads up Food Cardiff, was delighted by the team’s success: “The Public Health team in Cardiff and the Vale has worked with local partners to ensure that our children are having a positive experience during the summer holidays in terms of nutrition, education and social interaction.
“This holistic approach has helped to enrich the lives of our city’s children, to give them the best possible start to the new school term.”
Debbie Lewis is Kitchen Manager at Millbank Primary in Ely. She gave up her summer holiday to ensure the children received a healthy breakfast and lunch for each day of the programme.
She said: “The focus is very much on healthy food. The children get balanced meals with lots of fruit and vegetables and plenty of water. They love trying new foods.”
Debbie cooked fresh, nutritious meals to provide the children with plenty of energy for their sports and activities. Favourites included chicken curry and roast dinner, with generous servings of vegetables.
Debbie, whose adult children attended Millbank when they were younger, said: “I wish they’d had this when my two were little. The children absolutely love coming here.
“It doesn’t feel like coming to work and it’s such a big help to a lot of parents.”
Parents and grandparents have all seen the benefits of the programme.
Karen Llewellin’s son, Joseph, attended the programme at Millbank Primary.
Karen said: “Joseph is learning without realising it. He’s trying new foods and he’s really enjoyed the daily exercise.
“It’s been absolutely brilliant. I really hope this comes back next year.”
Joseph, seven, added: “It’s awesome. Did you know how much sugar is in a bag of sweets?”
Riverbank Special School was the only special school in Wales involved in this year’s programme and caters for children with additional needs such as autism and Down’s syndrome.
Kirstyn McAdorey is a teaching assistant at Riverbank, where she was responsible for co-ordinating the programme. She has seen the positive effects first-hand.
“It’s been fantastic,” she said. “The children have been so excited to come into school during the holidays.”
She observed that it also gave parents respite during the day and even helped with their home life: “The children go home tired and happy.”
Acting head-teacher Deborah Herald was full of praise, saying: “Spending quality time with the children during the school holidays has really helped the teachers to develop those personal relationships.”
She added: “This is a fantastic initiative that really needs to be expanded. In this day and age, we can’t have children going without a cooked meal.”