BLOG: Holiday food and fun with School Food Matters

16 August 2021

Since 2018, School Food Matters (SFM) has been running holiday food and fun programmes, thanks to the support of our partners Belazu and Abel & Cole.

These programmes provide fun activities and a nutritious meal to vulnerable children in the safe and familiar environment of their school. This summer our programmes will run in two London schools:

Willow Tree Primary School in Northolt and St Mary’s Roman Catholic Primary School in Battersea. Both serve diverse communities with high numbers of vulnerable children and families.  

We began the holiday food and fun programmes because we could no longer ignore the grim statistics on hunger and social isolation. An estimated three million children are thought to be at risk of hunger during the school holidays, and data from food banks shows a surge in demand for emergency supplies over the summer.

Now, thanks to Marcus Rashford’s successful campaign during lockdown 2020, children across England can benefit from the government’s Holiday Activities and Food (HAF) programme in 2021.   As well as ensuring that children from the poorest households get at least one freshly cooked meal a day, HAF programmes provide social contact, exercise and enrichment activities. These are especially important in the wake of the pandemic, which has had such a detrimental effect on the emotional and social development of many children.  

The government’s HAF programme targets children eligible for free school meals which is an effective way of reaching families on low incomes. However, at School Food Matters we let the schools decide which children will benefit from support during the holidays. This is important as during our Covid response programme, Breakfast Boxes, we found that one in four of the families who needed our help were not eligible for free school meals and are falling through the cracks.  

So, what does a day at our holiday food and fun programme look like? Like all good social events, our Holiday Food and Fun clubs begin with something tasty. Children start the day with some fresh fruit before choosing an activity. With the help of the school staff, and volunteers from our programme partners, we offer craft, lots of sport, cooking and even some food growing with SFM’s school gardener, Cath. After a busy morning, the children sit down together for a hot, nutritious lunch before heading off for more fun. 

Of course, it’s important for School Food Matters to hear from the children, to make sure we’re providing the ‘fun’ in our holiday food and fun programmes.  We asked them to review the activities and they appear to have been enthusiastically received! 

“The activities fill my big brain with creativity” 

“The gardening is good because it’s life” 

“I like playing football because it was epic and extraordinary”

We then asked the children how they would have spent their time without the club and their answers were telling: 

“Play on my Playstation and being lonely” 

“Watch TV at home so you have helped me a lot”  

Perhaps the best way to sum up response to our programmes is with this photo sent to us by a teacher from 2020’s programme after she found two children enjoying playing with chalk on the wall of the playground: 

Written by Stephanie Slater, Founder/Chief Executive 

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