£220m is available for local authorities (LAs) to run the Holiday Activities and Food Programme (HAF) during Easter, summer and Christmas holidays 2021, for children receiving benefits-related free school meals.
Keeping our children healthy and well-fed is not a job that ends with the last bell of term. School holidays can be particularly difficult times in the calendar for families from low-income backgrounds; with increased food insecurity and difficulty in accessing out-of-school activities.
During the first lockdown, research from Food Foundation found that the proportion of households with children experiencing food insecurity almost doubled. Following recommendations in the National Food Strategy Part 1, and a high profile campaign by Marcus Rashford, the Government is providing £220m to local authorities to coordinate the HAF in 2021. This will include free holiday provision of ‘healthy food and enriching activities.’
The HAF is for children who receive benefits-related free school meals (FSM). Some LAs have previously participated in a pilot programme but for 2021 the funding will be available for all local authorities. It is expected to cover food and activities for four hours a day, four days a week, for four weeks in summer and a week in both the Easter and Christmas holidays. Local authorities will have flexibility to decide how these hours and weeks are divided up.
The Government also suggests LAs make their programmes available to all children, and those not eligible for FSM can pay to attend. This echoes suggestions made by our friend Henry Dimbleby, who is busy writing part two to the National Food Strategy.
It is recommended that LAs incorporate representatives from a wide range of local bodies in a steering group to map and deliver provision to their areas of greatest need. We are pleased to see the Government also encourage LAs to engage children and families in food education, to promote nutritious buying and eating habits.
However, for local authorities new to HAF, a delay in guidance being published has meant they now are scrambling to procure delivery partners for the scheme. In response, the Department for Education’s HAF Local Authority Implementation Team will support LAs in delivering the HAF.
School Food Matters is pleased to see the HAF extended, following our calls from last year. This is one of several issues for consideration once we’ve persuaded government to lead a comprehensive review of school food.