Tackling Holiday Hunger
“Glasgow 2018, holiday hunger is a real and sadly growing issue in this city. It beggars belief, doesn’t it? That in one of the richest countries in the world, any child should go hungry during the holidays.
Holidays are meant to be fun, a time to play and explore and spend time with your pals, but for so many of our children and their families, poverty turns those weeks into a series of cruel choices.
Even families entitled to free school meals do not get any extra support to feed their kids in the holidays.
Do we eat or heat the house? Do we eat or entertain the kids? Do I not eat so my child can?
I don’t like school holidays!”. The words of one of the participants at our Easter Holiday Camp last month. “I don’t know if I’ll get any dinner.”.
There is thankfully some support out there – organisations such as Achieve More Scotland have been running holiday clubs for 6 years. They’re amazing. They do their utmost to ensure that as many kids as possible get physical activity and a tasty and nutritious meal every day.
In the time that Achieve More have been delivering holiday activity provision, they have learned how children eat little and badly over the holidays and how they start to suffer in terms of educational development. So, this is more than just a simple act of kindness – feeding a hungry child during the school holidays – is also a massive issue of inequality and compromised chances. The loss of free school meals during the holidays costs a family £30-40 per week
Why does holiday provision matter?
The clubs provide fun activities for children who might otherwise miss out, due to pressures on family budgets. These activities range from cricket to
dance, other sports activities & arts and crafts. Holiday clubs also encourage children to be more physically active, through informal sports sessions and more informal outdoor play.
Holiday clubs also protect children from hunger, and the catalogue of negative physical and mental health impacts it brings in its wake. Achieve More holiday clubs serve children from lower income families and make the biggest difference in strengthening food security for the poorest families. Holiday clubs help to relieve the pressure on family food budgets, at a time when parents are faced with finding the money to cover the gap left by the loss of term-time free school meals. They can also help parents to continue working during the school holidays and mitigate the prohibitive costs of holiday childcare.
Holiday clubs contribute to the fight against obesity and related health problems. They provide healthy, nutritious meals, and encourage children to try a wider range of foods than they may otherwise eat.
Holiday clubs provide valuable volunteering opportunities for people with multiple barriers to employment, including those with experience of mental health issues.
Children who are hungry are less likely to flourish at school and perform worse on maths and literacy tests than their peers who are learning on a full stomach. Studies from other countries have shown that children from lower socio-economic groups suffer disproportionately from holiday learning loss, with the holidays exacerbating the achievement gap between rich and poor children. This reverberates through a child’s life, leading to poorer educational achievement, life chances and job prospects.
Holiday clubs provide valuable social interaction for children and parents, who might otherwise be lonely and isolated during the holidays. They also help volunteers feel more involved in their communities and help to build bridges between communities.
By providing food and enrichment activities for children, holiday clubs help to alleviate drops and stagnation in educational performance. In this way they help to safeguard social mobility by preventing poorer children from falling further behind their richer peers during the holidays.
The message that needs to be heard is that holiday clubs are more than just fun and games, they make a difference to individuals, families and communities and require to be developed across the country.