Struggling families in Nottingham are to receive more support over the Christmas holidays with food vouchers and free outdoor activities.
The City Council has repeatedly made £15-per-week vouchers available to all pupils who receive free school meals (FSM) over holiday periods.
These are issued to parents ahead of their children breaking up from school and are part of the Government’s Household Support Fund (HSF) programme to help financially-vulnerable families.
Alongside the supermarket vouchers will be a number of outdoor holiday activities across Nottingham. At these, FSM pupils will receive a free lunch, plus a programme of activities focused on healthy eating, fitness and mental health.
The two projects have been funded through a combined award of £3.68 million from the HSF and the Holiday Activity Fund (HAF).
The £1.8m HAF grant was, through a bidding process, made available to community groups, charities and schools with the ability to deliver outdoor holiday activities in neighbourhoods across the city.
At the start of the year the Council appointed two lead organisations to help deliver the activity sessions – Nottingham Forest Community Trust and Trent Bridge Community Trust.
The HAF funding has been allocated from the Department for Education with certain criteria attached. This stipulates that the support for tackling holiday hunger should be through free school meals pupils attending holiday clubs.
FSM parents can book places using their e-voucher codes which will be distributed by their child’s school. Anyone in receipt of benefit-related FSM who hasn’t received a e-voucher should contact: FreeFunandFood@nottinghamcity.gov.uk or call 07977 853946.
There are also a limited number of places available for targeted children who aren’t eligible for FSM and these will be allocated by the schools.
Councillor Cheryl Barnard, Portfolio Holder for Children, Young People and Education at Nottingham City Council, said: “We understand that support like this makes a huge difference for hard-working people across our city facing an extremely challenging time. We want to help in every way we can.
“The supermarket vouchers help put meals on tables, while the free activity clubs can be also be a lifeline for families across the city, and I’d urge parents to take a look now at what’s on offer in their area to make a booking.
“As a more deprived and urban part of the country, Nottingham has around 15,000 children eligible for free school meals so this funding is so important in a city like ours.”
Calum Osborne, Chief Executive Officer at the Nottingham Forest Community Trust, said: “At a time when families really feel the pinch over Christmas, we’re delighted to be able to provide this support, giving their children a safe place to play and providing healthy food.
“The combination of free meals and outdoor activities not only addresses the immediate challenge of holiday hunger but also promotes a holistic approach to wellbeing, focusing on healthy eating, fitness, and mental health.
“This initiative, made possible through the Holiday Activity Fund, underscores our commitment to creating positive experiences for the community and supporting vulnerable families during the Winter School holidays.”
Shamas Mohammed, HAF Project Co-ordinator for the Trent Bridge Community Trust, said: “No parent should be faced with the prospect of being unable to feed their children during the school holidays – and it feels especially fitting at Christmas for us to do what we can to support those in need.
“Since we began to deliver the HAF programme in 2022, the benefits we’ve seen have been clear – not just in terms of the meals we’ve been able to offer, but also the opportunities we’ve provided for young people to learn more about healthy living, improve their social skills and enjoy new experiences.
“Alongside our partners, Education FC and Basford United FC, we’ll give our activities and lunches a suitably festive twist this December to ensure that some of the more vulnerable families in our city can still enjoy a dose of the Christmas spirit.”
Nottingham City Council has previously endorsed Manchester United and England footballer Marcus Rashford’s campaign to tackle holiday hunger.
At a meeting of the Full Council in November 2020, councillors highlighted the levels of child poverty in Nottingham and gave a commitment to support free school meals to children throughout the holidays in 2021 and 2022.This was extended through 2023.