The Welsh Local Government Association (WLGA) is working with local councils and health boards to help support school children during their summer break with a programme of free school meals and fun activities.
Aimed at addressing issues like food insecurity, learning loss and social exclusion the programme aims to help children to be more active, eat healthily and develop friendships while also making the most of local school facilities.
Building on the success of a ground breaking ‘Food and Fun’ model developed and piloted by the Food Cardiff partnership last year, the WLGA is working with councils and public health dietitians to extend the initiative within Cardiff, the Vale of Glamorgan, Neath Port Talbot, Denbighshire and Wrexham during summer 2016.
The programme will enrich the school holiday experience of children in areas of high deprivation, and will see a number of schools providing free meals, as well as a wide range of food education, physical activity and other fun sessions during the summer break.
Cllr Ali Thomas OBE (Neath Port Talbot), WLGA Spokesperson for Education said:
“This new partnership approach marks the beginning of local councils in Wales leading on the development of a sustainable and long term solution to this problem. We are very pleased that we are able to provide this scheme in the areas where it is needed the most.
“We hope that this project, which will run for four weeks this summer, will build on the success of the Food Cardiff pilot in 2015, where 79% of parents felt that the project had made a real contribution to relieving financial pressure on their family. This year ‘Food and Fun’ could benefit an extra 1,000 children.
“We have also enlisted the expertise of Cardiff University to evaluate the programme, and this will inform future roll out to other councils who have expressed a need for such a programme in their area. I look forward to seeing the results when the University has evaluated the programme as our long-term aim is to eliminate ‘holiday hunger’ for school children in Wales.”
Mark Drakeford AM, Cardiff West said:
“The School Holiday Enrichment Programme is now into its second year in my constituency, and has been piloted in a number of schools here. The programme has proved successful in ensuring children have access to nutritious meals throughout the summer holiday. I have enjoyed seeing at first hand the positive impact it has.”
Vanessa Young, Director of the Welsh NHS Confederation said:
“The school holidays can be a difficult time for many families. Children taking a break from school for several weeks can mean an increase in food insecurity, stress, social isolation and poor health. This programme is designed to support families who are faced with these concerning issues during these times.
“By coming together and building on previous success, we hope this work will help to reduce childhood poverty levels and inequalities in health as well as enhance children’s quality of life.”