Many children love the summer break. Many children will count down to the last days of school. But for the children and families we support, the long six-week holiday period can be a daunting time. Without the daily structure, resources, and guidance that school provides, families facing issues of poverty, housing, and hunger struggle to cope over the summer.
“A third of parents have skipped a meal so that their children could eat during the school holidays”
– Kellogg’s ‘Isolation and Hunger: the reality of the school holidays for struggling families’ 2015
One of the biggest challenges for parents and carers during the holidays is providing additional food that would usually be supplied in school. An estimated three million children risk being hungry during school holidays, including an estimated one million receiving free school meals (FSM).* For many pupils receiving FSM, that school meal at lunch may be the one warm meal they eat all day. The families we support face a huge pressure to cover these costs, especially coupled with additional childcare costs while they work.
With these pressures and challenges in mind, we knew our school-based support could not stop despite school gates closing across the country. This year, with generous funding and supporters, we were able to run several projects to provide a lifeline to families in need. The SHS Summer Holiday project in Newham, East London, is one example of #SHSimpact continuing throughout the six-week break.
With funding from the Pears Foundation and the generosity of London Stock Exchange Group employees, SHS worked in partnership with local community group Aston-Mansfield to pilot a project over the six-week break. With two sessions a week, the key objective was to address holiday hunger and provide a lifeline to struggling families when they may otherwise feel isolated from support systems like school.
Every session saw parents arrive promptly with their children, keen to get started. Children were entertained with structured activities whilst parents attended ‘meal in a box’ recipe sessions. Families were provided with a healthy recipe at each session and all the ingredients they needed so they could prepare the family evening meal. Parents and carers were supported with open discussions about the recipes. Mums shared ideas and supported each other, comparing notes on how well their family meals had turned out.
“I’m not the best cook and always stick to the basics, but this has meant that we are trying new recipes with ingredients I normally wouldn’t buy and I actually give it ago. It’s something different, not the same meals again and again.”
– Mary, a mum of three children
|“It’s great coming away with food and then trying to cook new dishes with my kids and getting them involved. We’ll be cooking them again.” – Donna, a mum of two children|
The benefits of attending our Summer Holiday project didn’t stop at alleviating holiday hunger. Families also learned about free activities available over the summer, and Mums supported each other to organise trips around London. Parents developed new friendships and widened their networks, easing feelings of isolation and improving confidence. Children made new friends and had opportunities to play and have fun. One boy who was bullied at school has thoroughly enjoyed the project this summer having made friends. His mum tells us he was “counting down the days till the next session”.
Ultimately, providing food poverty relief, a space to develop a community, and ensuring children had positive and fun activities to take part in has proved an essential lifeline for struggling families over the summer holidays.
“I really don’t want this to end. It’s been really fun and motivating and great to come out and have a community with other parents. I just wish more families could benefit.”
– Savita, a mum of four children
- An estimated three million children risk being hungry during school holidays including an estimated one million receiving free school meals, and two million that were disqualified from free school meals
- An increase in the number of families with children relying on food banks during the school holidays compared to other parts of the year
- A third of parents have skipped a meal so that their children could eat during the school holidays.
- 41 per cent of parents on low household incomes say they sometimes feel isolated in the school holidays due to being unable to afford to go out and entertain their children.
- 37% of teachers spotted signs of malnourishment when children returned from school holidays.
* Feeding Britain & All-Party Parliamentary Group ‘Hungry holidays, A report on hunger amongst children during school holidays’ 2017