Holiday Hunger programme
School holidays are pressure points for some families, particularly those who have children eligible for free school meals, because of increased costs. There is growing evidence that children from disadvantaged families experience poor physical, mental and social wellbeing during the school holidays. Therefore, the Active Essex Foundation introduced the Holiday Hunger initiative to respond directly to the needs of children among the counties most deprived families.
In Essex up until 2019, there was a limited use of whole-system approaches to tackle societal issues such as holiday hunger. The Active Essex Foundation worked across numerous settings to tackle holiday hunger, physical inactivity and influence a county-wide policy. The Foundation placed trust in community consortiums by developing a bottom-up approach, which built upon the strengths in the community, rather than focusing on what wasn’t working.
The holiday hunger activity clubs targeted young people aged 5- 18 years, who registered for free school meals or who were identified at risk of suffering from food insecurity. The offer was extended to the whole family to access food packages, physical activity sessions, support and to encourage social interaction.
As coordinator, the Active Essex Foundation led a development phase that drew together 56 organisations who worked with vulnerable families from across Essex. Through sharing knowledge and insight, the relationships of partners strengthened, which in turn created new and innovative approaches. Organisations spanned across the county in the Community, Health, Community Safety, Social Care and Education sectors. Subsequently, proposals were invited from consortiums that adopted a collaborative approach to address holiday hunger and physical activity.
Over the lifespan of the Holiday Hunger initiative, the Active Essex Foundation have developed a strong network of over 100 locally trusted organisations, responding to the growing need of support to this key target audience. Due to the global Covid-19 pandemic, this put further financial strain on these families and therefore the work of the Foundation became even more pivotal. With ever-changing restrictions, the Holiday Hunger delivery team were required to constantly adapt. Due to tougher restrictions that were put in place just before Christmas 2020, it meant that the physical activity aspect of the initiative had to be cancelled. Nonetheless, the Active Essex and Foundation team worked tirelessly to ensure food packages were offered to all families who had signed up to the Christmas programme.