Leeds City Council: Healthy Holidays in Leeds

The Healthy Holidays scheme provides activities and food over the Easter, Summer and Christmas holidays to vulnerable children, primarily those eligible for Free School Meals.

About the scheme

The Healthy Holidays scheme has been running in Leeds for four years, and has previously been led by Leeds Community Foundation, in partnership with Leeds City Council. In 2021, the Department for Education significantly increased funding and expanded the programme to all local authorities, in addition to committing to funding for 2022, 2023 and 2024. 

The programme provides activities and food over the Easter, Summer and Christmas holidays to children eligible for free school meals, and a small number of additional children who are otherwise vulnerable. Leeds City Council now leads the programme, in partnership with Leeds Community Foundation. Despite significant challenges posed by the pandemic and the rapid scheme expansion, Leeds has been able to maintain provisions successfully in all holiday periods permitted by the Department for Education. 

In 2022, Leeds received funding of £3.5 million for programmes over the Easter, Summer and Christmas holidays. Over 120 schools, 50 third sector organisations and over 20 council provisions (consisting of community hubs, Breeze and the youth service) have been funded. 

For the year 2021 (£3.8million funding), all provisions reached 27,000 children and young people across all holiday periods and 202,000 portions of food were provided. This year, the Council are aiming to exceed this target, as in Easter 2022 alone they have reached 6942 children and young people (5514 primary aged children, 1428 secondary aged young people) with 20,000 on site attendances and 35,000 portions of food distributed. The summer programme is estimated to reach 8,500 children and young people, and the focus is to continue to build and expand the programme over the coming years. We’ve had positive feedback from schools about participating in the Healthy Holidays programme.

The impact of the Healthy Holidays programme goes beyond food and activities, with one school noting: 

‘One of our reception pupils is often a selective mute around adults. Throughout the first day, the pupil did not respond to any questions and did not want to engage in any activities. During the second day, she began to respond with nods and after our trip to Gravity Leeds, the pupil was taking part in the activities on offer, chatting and laughing with other pupils, and responding much more to adults' questions on the trip back. These kinds of socialisation will have a huge impact on this pupil's development and language’

Healthy Holidays works with a range of food partners including Catering Leeds, third sector organisations Fareshare and Rethink food, while a culturally appropriate food offer is available through the charities Hamara and Give a Gift. 

Active Leeds are running swimming catch up programmes, and the Council’s Parks & Countryside departments will provide trips, as well as our other internal partners within the Council. 

The scheme has been successful within the constraints and operates as leverage for the promotion of wider partnerships and change throughout Leeds. Examples of this include funding and supporting the backpack scheme through Zarach, the uniform exchange scheme through Zero Waste Leeds, swimming catch up sessions through Active Leeds, upskilling providers in food and nutritional education through Zest/Foodwise Leeds, and a range of training opportunities for all healthy holiday’s providers. 

In addition, schemes are run through the Council’s own community hubs which are multi service venues offering a wide range of support to families on a range of issues including employment support, money, budgeting and benefits, getting online and developing digital skills. Hosting healthy holidays activities in these venues enables repeat visits and the building of relationships and trust between families and staff.

Initiatives within the scheme

There are a variety of initiatives within Healthy Holidays, including those outlined below.

Swimming catch-up

Our swimming catch-up offer has been a huge success so far, with intensive swimming lessons having been delivered to 1,600 children and a further 1,500 spaces are available for summer 2022. By the end of the year, Active Leeds will have helped over 3,000 children confidently put their face in water, move independently through the water and learn how to raise the alarm in the event a friend gets into difficulty in the water. 

Uniform exchange

Leeds City Council and Leeds Community Foundation have funded Zero Waste Leeds to bring a co-ordinated uniform reuse scheme to the city. There are now 273 exchanges operating in the city, covering 92 per cent of schools in Leeds. Work is now ongoing to provide targeted support and encouragement to identified schools that are without an exchange, estimated to be less than 20 schools. Uniform exchanges will be available across many healthy holiday projects this summer.

Backpack scheme

LCC have funded the charity Zarach to produce a backpack scheme to provide children the essential items to attend school. This project involved 34 schools and most importantly 940 children received a backpack. Here is some feedback about the backpack scheme from a school who took part in the project:

‘Children who have nothing expect nothing so to have one of these fantastic backpacks and to see the joy on their faces as they carry them across the playground is priceless.’

Participating school spokesperson

Zest: Food toolkit

The council funded Zest, a third sector organisation, to develop bespoke support and information for Healthy Holidays providers. This includes, embedding Healthy eating messages for future healthy holiday provision as well as developing healthy food resources and activities to support delivery of healthy meals.



Joanna Rowlands, [email protected]