The programme aims to tackle holiday hunger, isolation, and inactivity during the school holidays. It focuses on children aged 5 to 11 years old who are eligible for free school meals. Children are referred to the programme by their schools and other agencies. This case study is part of the achieving efficiencies section of our online culture hub.
How to tackle holiday hunger, isolation and physical inactivity during the pandemic.
Fit, Fed and Read is delivered by Vision Redbridge Culture and Leisure Sport and Physical Activity team in collaboration with its Library and Culture team, Street Games, Felix Project and ISS Education. The programme is funded by Awards for All.
The programme aims to tackle holiday hunger, isolation, and inactivity during the school holidays. It focuses on children aged 5 to 11 years old who are eligible for free school meals. Children are referred to the programme by their schools and other agencies.
In 2020/2021, due to the pandemic, the programme moved online, ensuring that children experiencing food poverty can still access valuable support.
The programme isn’t just about making sure that these children have access to good quality food, it’s about empowering those children and their families to learn new skills together, build confidence, nurture friendships and improve physical health and mental well-being through a variety of sports, literature and creative activities.
Each school holiday, participating families receive a food hamper or food voucher and a list of recipes put together by our nutritionist.
The children take part in daily cooking sessions, learning how to make healthy meals and healthy eating choices. A daily routine of physical activities including dance and games encourage the children to have fun, get fit with their parents and help build stamina and resilience.
Over the school holidays children can experience a ‘dip’ in their reading skills and learning. This gap in attainment has been further exacerbated by the pandemic. Our food hampers include a craft activity pack and books to help them with their creativity and literacy skills.
Our daily programme of live storytelling told by professional storytellers and library staff, book discussions and literature- themed activities help maintain and develop literacy levels, nurture a love of reading for pleasure, whilst creating a safe space for children to connect with their peers.
The programme reached 226 families in 2020. Participant feedback highlights the key positive benefits of reducing isolation, worry and loneliness, with participants further reporting that the programme has helped them to improve their reading skills, to stay motivated to take better care of themselves and to encourage a positive mind set.
How is the new approach being sustained?
Due to the success of the programme, Redbridge Council has commissioned Vision Redbridge Culture and Leisure to run its Easter HAF programme extending the provision to children and young people aged 5 - 18 years. This will continue online for the time being.
To deliver a programme of this scale requires input from a range of partners both internal and external. An online programme takes as much work to organise as a physical programme and careful consideration needs to be given to the safeguarding of children in a virtual environment including the well-being of children who participate (shorter sessions to avoid screen fatigue etc).
There is recognition that many families who face food poverty will also be facing digital poverty. We are working with the local authority to ensure that devices and data can be provided to families to enable them to participate.