School holiday meals initiative could be expanded after successful trial

An Aberdeen City Council project providing free meals for children during school holidays could be expanded after a successful pilot scheme.

The Food and Fun initiative was trialled in three schools in Torry, Cummings Park and Woodside during this year’s summer holidays and was designed to reach families who were most in need by offering priority to those who were entitled to free school meals and those on the fringe of entitlement.

It focused on regeneration areas, offering packed lunches prepared by Council catering staff, as well as an activity programme to engage with young participants. Partners, such as the Aberdeen Football Club Community Trust, supported the provision of activities.

In total 1,734 meals were provided across the three areas at a total cost of £6,357. Feedback was overwhelmingly positive – with 98.4% of parents who responded to an evaluation survey saying their children had enjoyed the sessions and 40% reporting that their child’s behaviour at home had improved as a result of the Food and Fun sessions.

More than 50% of parents said they find it harder to make ends meet during the school holidays, with 80% stating food bills increased during these periods. Almost a third said they sometimes find themselves without money to buy food. 

Members of the Finance, Policy and Resources committee considered a report on the project when they met on Wednesday (6 December 2017) and have asked for plans for its expansion to be developed.

Cllr Douglas Lumsden, Aberdeen City Council Co-Leader and convener of the Finance, Policy and Resources committee, said: “It has been highlighted that delivering a mix of good food provision and activities during holiday periods not only helps alleviate hunger but can support working parents and those struggling with family food budgets in pressured holiday periods. As the report considered by members states, it can also raise the aspirations of children, offer safety and give opportunities for fun and socialising.

“Supporting the next generation is important to the future of Aberdeen and this is one of the innovative ways in which we have been doing that.

“There was a very positive impact demonstrated by the pilot project in key communities and we are committed to using that success as a foundation for moving forward. We have asked for a plan to be brought forward for the provision of meals to school children during holiday periods and an outline of the budget requirements to deliver this.

“The Council does not act alone and it is important to acknowledge the support provided by community partners, who also provide meals to children during school holidays without financial support from us. We are not attempting to replace existing initiatives but to ensure we are playing our part and allocating resource where it is needed and can make a difference to lives of young people.”