Blog entry by Paul Mijalski
and subsequent lockdowns has shifted society’s focus, bringing issues into the
heart of public awareness that had gone largely unnoticed. One such issue is
growing levels of child food poverty and particularly holiday hunger, the lack
of support for families and young people during school holidays which can leave
children in under-served communities without food, activity or basic social
The extraordinary work of Marcus Rashford and other campaigners has shifted public opinion and pushed Government to do more for those in need, with the Holiday Activities and Food (HAF) programme set to be rolled out nationally across the school breaks this year.
The problems that have been highlighted by the pandemic date back much further. Prior to Covid-19, according to the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, there were 4.2 million children living in poverty in the UK, over 56% of them in working households. 2019 saw more than 1 million visits to foodbanks.
Across the UK, child poverty is increasing with 1 in 3 young people now in serious danger of malnutrition. For those most at risk, the school holidays are often the biggest challenge, with 3 million children facing the triple threat of holiday hunger, inactivity and social isolation. 60% of families earning less than £25,000 can’t always afford food during the holidays, while those on less than £15,000 describe their food situation as a ‘constant struggle’.
For those working on the frontline in youth provision in recent years, none of this will come as a surprise. Fit and Fed was born out of the growing concerns of those on the ground, working in the heart of communities where families were struggling to make ends meet. Projects which already delivered sport and physical activity during the school holidays reported that children were turning up hungry, and soon adapted by incorporating a lunch or snack into their delivery. But the heart breaking stories of families struggling to cope made it clear that a larger intervention was needed.
It is against this backdrop that StreetGames first developed Fit and Fed, an innovative campaign that offers fun physical activities and nutritious, healthy meals to some of society’s most vulnerable young people.
Developed in consultation with experts on holiday provision and delivered through locally trusted organisations who had earned the trust and support of their communities, Fit and Fed aims to offer holiday provision that would truly fill the gap, providing children and young people with fun, physical activity, good food and an escape from the social isolation that too many families in disadvantaged communities suffer over the school holidays.
Launched in the summer of 2017, the programme succeeded in reaching 15,500 young people across 251 sites, in just its first year of operation. During that time, a whopping 90,000 meals were served to young people in need!
Since then, the programme has grown in scope and reach. This wouldn’t have been possible without many other individuals and organisations who share our common goal of tackling food poverty and improving the lives of young people and their families. Our work has been informed by the years of best practice accumulated by Greta Defeyter and her team at the Healthy Living Lab at Northumbria University, who have been long-time advocates for greater resources to tackled the holiday provision gap. In many instances our projects have been supported by organisations like FareShare in securing food.
Like our partners you could get involved by understanding the needs of your local community and making some small changes to what you do.
For more info or to get involved please link to our social media and check out our website:
- FITCAP Fit and Fed (PDF)
- FITCAP Fit and Fed (Word document)
- St Michael's Youth Project Fit and Fed (PDF)
- St Michael's Youth Project Fit and Fed (Word document)