Struggling families in Nottingham are to receive more support over Christmas through school food vouchers and outdoor holiday 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.
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 £3.55 million from the Household Support Grant Scheme 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.
Close to 20,000 children attended these clubs and were fed over the Easter, summer and October half-term holidays, and this money will be used to deliver more activities during the Christmas holidays – through a continued link-up between the Council and Nottingham Forest Community Trust as its lead project partner this year.
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.
Parents can book places by visiting www.asklion.co.uk/funandfood to see the list of clubs and the contact details of the groups.
There are also a limited number of places available for children who aren’t eligible for FSM and these will be allocated on a first-come-first-served basis.
Councillor Cheryl Barnard, Portfolio Holder for Children, Young People and Schools, said: “We understand how hard things have been for people in our city and so it is great news that pupils in need of help will be able to benefit from supermarket vouchers and activity clubs again this Christmas.
“The Council has made this support available throughout the year during school holidays, but this is a special time for children and their families. We want to help them in every way we can.
“Nottingham has around 15,000 children eligible for free school meals, and many of these families will already be feeling the strain because of the national cost-of-living crisis. It is right and proper that we are given this funding to ensure healthy meals for young people in need.
“I’d also like to take this opportunity to wish everyone in Nottingham a very merry Christmas and best wishes for the New Year.”
Calum Osborne, Deputy CEO of the Nottingham Forest Community Trust, said: “We are delighted to work closely with Nottingham City Council to offer high-quality, enriching activities and healthy meals for children across the city as we come to the end of a hugely successful year of running this programme.
“By collaborating with the City Council, local community-based organisations and business, we can achieve so much more when we work together to positively impact thousands of children.”
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.This has since been extended through 2022.