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Posted on 4th October 2022

“Can I come every day?” – Barnsley’s Healthy Holidays Programme 2022

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This blog is written by Amy Calvert from Good Food Barnsley.

The Healthy Holidays programme is a national project that seeks to enrich children and young people’s lives through the integration of nutritious meals and enriching activities that support with physical and mental health and wellness.

In Barnsley, recent years have seen a host of long-term holiday club providers continue to deliver a high standard of activity in addition to a host of new providers bringing new things to the table for youngsters to enjoy. Since moving to a local authority-led provision, the out of term time programme offers free holiday club spaces to children who are eligible for Free School Meals (“FSM”), enabling parents to continue working through the holidays. Children are guaranteed a healthy and delicious meal, and a host of new experiences with friends that focus on physical and creative enrichment – things that many children have the privilege of taking for granted when the school term concludes. The programme initially had a 10% leeway for non-FSM eligible children, which has moved to 15% this Summer, enabling a larger number of children who would benefit from the programme to access it.

The importance of the programme cannot be overstated, and for many families, the Healthy Holidays programme is a lifeline without which many would be tipped over the edge and to a point of crisis. It is through the programme that many children and families are able to form bonds and friendships within their local community, have new experiences, and gain supported access to other relevant services too. “My son went to Ad Astra [this Summer] and he loves it. I now volunteer with them and they have got me onto training to improve my confidence” said one parent. “I feel like part of a big family” said another volunteer of the programme. The importance of social inclusion cannot be overstated, and particularly given the most recent pandemic, a floodlight has been shone on the importance and impact of social interaction, a sense of community and belonging. The Healthy Holidays programme does this both for the children and their families, fostering a support network that may not exist in the same way without it.

In addition to the main programme of events and places, Barnsley was fortunate enough to be in receipt of additional funding support via Meals & More, which enabled many more children across 8 different providers to access holidays clubs this Summer who do not meet the criteria of FSM eligibility. The massive positive impact of the Healthy Holidays programme is apparent through the overwhelmingly positive feedback that providers receive at the end of the holiday period, as many parents and carers rely on the support in order to continue to work through the Summer. “I don’t know how I could have got through the holiday without you”, said one Mum. “It’s about time my kids get the same chances” said a single Dad. Without the extension to non-FSM eligible children, “my kids miss out again”. What’s apparent from children’s feedback on the programmes available this Summer is the massive positive impact they feel too. “Can I come every day?” asked Emma, age 8; and 5-year-old Bill said “it’s better than school, I like to play with my friends”. Children with a spectrum of different interests picked out different elements of what they enjoyed most this Summer, from arts and crafts through to dodgeball and parachute games, there really was something for every child to get involved with.

Meals & More also visited some of the clubs in Barnsley this year, bringing a helpful pair of hands to help out with an explosive scientific experiment at Ad Astra (a familiar combination of Mentos and Coco-Cola) and some take home cake kits for children to continue the food-based fun at home. “Each day, every child took a gift home, some days it would be some fruit and sausage rolls and other days it would be an activity” said Station House’s CEO, Charlotte Williams. “The days they took the cake mixes from Meals & More, they were really popular. The benefit of an activity and something nice to eat at the end.”

In addition to funding some extra spaces in the clubs, Meals & More further provided support via the Big Day Out fund, which saw Barnsley providers able to put on 5 day trips for the children they work with. Grassroots Sports Academy, an organisation that works hard to encourage girls to pursue football, were able to take their girls to the Women’s Euros, enabling them “the opportunity to see women’s football at the very highest level, something which they may not do normally”.

Barnsley providers supported by Meals & More this Summer all made their thanks and appreciation known, and the palpable excitement in the air at the clubs was proof enough that these clubs do something amazing.