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Progress on solutions to holiday hunger

February 11th 2019

From left: Sam Froud Powell, Victoria Winckler, Thomas Clarke, Hayley Broad, Katie Palmer, Emma Holmes, Bonnie Kemble, Cherrie Bija, Hayley Richards and Lindsay Graham

We’re delighted to report that our seminar on Solutions to Holiday Hunger last week was a huge success.

We welcomed around 60 delegates to Theatr Soar in Methyr, all working at the forefront of holiday hunger programmes or services concerned with food poverty.

Highlighting the bigger picture

Food security expert Lindsay Graham opened the discussion with an eye-opening look at the shocking extent of food insecurity across the UK:

  • 19% of under 15s are living in food insecure households
  • 5.8 million children are living in homes below the minimum income standard
  • 2.1 million families are worse off on Universal Credit

Drawing on her personal experience of food poverty, Lindsay emphasised that we need to do more to understand the prevalence of food insecurity and its far-reaching efffects, such as poor health, behavioural problems and shame.

Lindsay outlined the wealth of projects that have been established to address the problem, but highlighted that for every 1 child that has benefitted from a holiday provision programme, there are 8 who haven’t. She stated it was vital that any schemes designed to alleviate holiday hunger should be seeking to provide long term solutions.

Quoting Jorg Drager, Lindsay emphasised that children in poverty cannot change their own living situation by themselves; the government has a responsibility to step in.


Next up was Hayley Richards of the South Wales Food Poverty Alliance, whose report on Food Poverty in south Wales was launched the same day.

Hayley outlined the report’s main findings, explaining that 750,000 people in Wales currently live in relative poverty after paying housing costs, a fifth of workers in Wales are paid less than the real Living Wage, and recipients of Universal Credit have to undergo a 5 week wait at present. Hayley reiterated Lindsay’s words saying that if we do not want food banks to become a part of day to day Welsh life, we need to consider how we support low income families beyond the short-term provision of food.

She then summarised the report’s key calls to action, namely:

  • measure food insecurity better
  • pay more people a living wage
  • provide greater support to manage universal credit issues
  • develop a holistic plan to get children well fed and nourished
  • secure ongoing funding for the holiday enrichment programme.


Exploring different approaches

In the second session, Katie Palmer of Food Sense Wales introduced us to the School Holiday Enrichment Programme which aims to address the problem of holiday hunger. She talked about the link between good food, health and education, and stated that we must aspire to equality of aspiration in our school leavers.

Public Health Diatetics’ Emma Holmes talked about how the ‘Nutrition skills for life’ programme has supported the programme. She stressed the importance of nutritional meal provision in reducing health inequalities by explaining that people on a low income are impacted more by rising food prices and have a higher prevalence of diet-related conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, obesity and certain cancers.

Thomas Clarke of Sport Cardiff, who became a sports coach after facing his own struggles at school, talked about the benefits of the sport and physical activity provided by the School Holiday Enrichment Programme – building confidence, forming friendships and addressing behavioural issues were among the most significant.

Bonnie Kemble of Herbert Thompson Primary School rounded off the presentation with an insight into the role the school have been playing in delivering the School Holiday Enrichment Programme and the impact its had on pupils.

We then heard from representatives of 3 community schemes:

Cherrie Bija of Faith in Families talked about the impact their ‘Community Cwtches’ groups are having in Swansea with a focus on fun. She also raised concerns about the number of children not accessing free school meal provision.

Hayley Broad of Merthyr Valley Homes talked through their holiday hamper scheme which aims to mitigate against the £30-40 per week families need to provide an additional two meals a day per child in the holidays.

Finally, Sam Froud Powell talked about the pilot Your Local Community Pantry being run by Action in Caerau and Ely (ACE). An alternative to foodbank parcels, this innovative membership scheme involves recipients paying a small fee of £3.50 a week and being able to shop for and select the items they receive.


Meeting the challenges and developing solutions

Following a short break, Lindsay Graham set the scene for some thought-provoking and constructive roundtable discussion to explore what good holiday provision looks likes and how it can be achieved. There was also broad agreement on some key factors that needed to be in place; the need to plan ahead and to involve the community and partner organisations at all opportunities, the need for schemes to be welcoming, minimising stigma for families who benefited from any programmes, and the need for all schemes to promote long term independence so that families do not have to become dependent on food banks and holiday hunger support schemes in the long-term.

Victoria Winckler then took the discussion beyond food, asking what could be done to end holiday hunger and how.


We’ll shortly be incorporating the results of our roundtable discussions into a report with our full recommendations of who needs to take what action to resolve holiday hunger for good.

We’d like to thank all our speakers and our sponsors Merthyr Valleys Homes and the South Wales Food Poverty Alliance, as well as our Hands up Against Holiday Hunger donors for making this seminar firstly possible and secondly productive.

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One Response to “Progress on solutions to holiday hunger”

  1. Ian Lucas M.P. for Wrexham says:

    Good Evening,

    I have read about your recent work on holiday hunger, and especially about SHEP, with great interest. In Wrexham we have been trying a different approach to helping vulnerable families who are short of food in the holidays. It has been organised by the Church in Wales, specifically by Sarah Wheat, their exceptionally talented engagement officer. Some differences between this and the SHEP project are: this is not school based – not all children actually want to go back to school in the holidays! This may also apply to struggling parents who may find making an appearance at school rather stigmatising; it is a lot less expensive to deliver; it ties into existing play provision and support for families. Sarah is happy for you to contact her if you would like to follow this up. [email protected]

    Sarah writes: “Over the past 4 years I have been involved in setting up holiday hunger projects in the diocese of St Asaph to tackle this issue using a simple but effective format. We have run projects in many areas across our diocese including parts of Wrexham, Conwy, Denbighshire and Flintshire. We use a similar format in each area. We work with local open access play provision to deliver packed lunches to children who might otherwise go hungry. This format seems to work well as it allows churches and communities to come together and, for a small cost, provide a simple meal for children and young people in their local area. It allows local play provision to continue their excellent work, while enhancing the children’s experience of the school holidays by providing a much needed meal.

    The play providers have reported an improvement in the children’s behaviour and experience of the play provision. It has allowed Play Workers to ensure children who they work with regularly, and therefore know are going without enough food in the holidays, can receive the food they need. The children can access the food themselves as the provision is open access and they know when the food will be available, so can ensure they come and receive their lunch. They often bring siblings, friends and even parents, as they know they can access food without stigma or embarrassment. Families and friends can come and eat together, offering them the opportunity of a meal and a chance to socialise, that would otherwise for many be out of their price range.

    This is a low cost project that brings many people and agencies together to support each other so that children and young people can have a better experience of the school holidays. Many families struggle to have enough food during term time and this scheme helps to ensure there is somewhere people can access food when schools are closed. Many of our projects run during Easter, summer and Christmas school holidays and some run during the half term holidays too.

    The main restriction we have encountered to running the projects is the lack of, or cuts to, local play provision. This provision is a life line for so many children and young people, but due to cuts in budgets, play provision has suffered and therefore children and young people have suffered. Churches and local communities want to support their children and young people and ensure they receive the food they need to be healthy and happy but we cannot do this project alone.

    Our diocese was involved in the roll out of SHEP in the Wrexham area (Ruabon and Brynteg), providing funding to what we hoped would be part of the solution to tackling holiday hunger. It is an expensive project with aims similar to our own, of providing a healthy meal and physical activity to children in areas of social deprivation. The areas we have delivered projects in do not have a SHEP that these children could have easily attended instead of our projects, and they would therefore not have had the opportunity to access activities or food during the school holidays should they need it.

    In many areas where funding is scarce, and need is high, a project like ours would be more cost effective and would reach many more children. If play providers were able to access the funding available for SHEP, and could work in partnership with a church and community group to provide food, they could provide excellent activities and a filling meal for a fraction of the cost during most, if not all, of the school holidays.”
    Sarah Wheat
    St Asaph Diocese Engagement Officer.

    Over the last 3 years the project has delivered approaching 3,500 lunches in the year. Because this is perceived as a community and church initiative, we receive charitable donations which now cover our food costs, and because Holiday Hunger is seen as an issue, our local food bank should address, the food bank is able to donate treats we can offer the children in the form of drinks and biscuits, helping keep our costs down. These items are additional to the large healthy filled large bread rolls that we prepare, and an item of fruit. Each child receives each of these items daily, and in the winter we also prepare soup from scratch for each child. There is however no rule that says the food is only for children who receive free school meals.

    Sarah is making some very good points about the need to be flexible with arrangements to combat holiday hunger and the advantages of a multi-agency approach. She and I would like to bring these to your attention.
    Kind regards,

    Ian Lucas M.P. for Wrexham

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