Holiday food programme in South Ribble gears up for Easter break

Thousands of needy children will be fed and exercised by South Ribble Council during school holidays this year thanks, in part, to football star Marcus Rashford.

By Brian Ellis
Saturday, 19th March 2022, 3:45 pm

The authority is to extend its Holiday and Food programme (HAF), which last year helped youngsters from hard-up families enjoy activities and a healthy meal outside school term, in the wake of a national campaign spearheaded by the Manchester United striker.

The council's 2021 programme was given government funding of £225,471 - administered by County Hall - and topped up locally with a further £19,690 for Christmas food parcels, to look after youngsters who might otherwise go hungry.

This year the scheme has been extended to include Easter, with the council expecting to receive around £300,000 to fund its programme for the year supporting almost 2,500 children in South Ribble who would normally qualify for free school meals.

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Almost 2,500 children could qualify for help this Easter.

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Soccer idol Rashford is continuing to press the Government to allow even more youngsters to qualify for food help, claiming there are more at risk than just those on free school meals.

In 2021 children in South Ribble were supported for five weeks - four in the summer and one at Christmas. This year the scheme will also include the two-week Easter break which begins at the end of this month.

The council's cabinet will be asked on Wednesday to approve the roll-out of the 2022 programme based on the success of last year's effort.

"Funding received for the HAF Programme in 2021 enabled a wide ranging offer of activities and food for children across the borough," says a report to be presented to the cabinet.

"There is a will from leisure services, community groups and providers to continue the scheme. Feedback received from parents and carers echoes this.

"Delivery of the HAF Programme is directly in line with the council’s corporate priorities. It complements other schemes such as the holiday hunger programme and school uniform bank, supporting families who need a little additional help."

The council says the objectives of the HAF programme for children include eating more healthily over the school holidays, being more active, taking part in engaging and enriching activities "which support the development of resilience, character, and wellbeing along with their wider educational attainment" and being safe and not socially isolated.

Activities this year will include swimming, badminton and gym sessions at leisure centres, boxing training with qualified coaches, arts and crafts, bird box making, nature trails, video production – filming, editing and sound engineering - a giant inflatable explorer jungle and climbing wall, bikeability and multi-sports in parks.

The report adds: "In 2021 the delivery target across Lancashire was to offer enough places for 30 per cent of children in receipt of free school meals to be able to participate; the equivalent of around 740 places each day.

"Close working relationships with schools, foodbanks and charities locally led us to challenge the free school meal register as being the sole measure of vulnerability, so in South Ribble, no child was turned away from HAF activities."

A proposed timetable for Easter 2022 is being drafted, with activities provided by external groups, charities, and the council’s leisure and active health teams.

Venues will include parks, schools, community centres and leisure centres in Leyland, Penwortham, Lostock Hall and Bamber Bridge.