By: Annie Olivier, Programme Coordinator for Feeding Britain
On the 19th of January the Houses of Parliament played host to students from Colham Manor primary school. The students had previously taken part in holiday food and fun activities run by Kitchen Social, an organisation which provides children with a safe place to go over the holidays where they can socialise and receive a healthy meal.
The students took part in a fruit carving competition while staff and volunteers from holiday clubs across the UK discussed with MPs the need for government supported holiday provision.
Following the event, Frank Field MP had the second reading of his School Holiday (Meals and Activities) Provision Bill. The Bill set out to ensure that every child have access to food and fun over the holidays. It would achieve this by giving local authorities both the responsibility and resource to coordinate programmes in their communities.
Sharon Hodgson, MP for Washington and Sunderland West, released the below statement later that day in support of government legislated holiday provision:
“It is shameful that we will allow children to remain hungry during the school holidays, which will have a serious detrimental effect on their health and education thus negatively affecting their life opportunities.If we are to truly believe that we are giving our children the best start in life, then it is important that this issue is addressed – and this Bill will help take us a step further to achieving that goal.”
At the debate, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of Education Nadhim Zahawi recognised that the Government had more work to do to tackle poverty and disadvantage and that they were committed to working with stakeholders to help the most disadvantaged pupils to access healthy meals and activities over the holidays.
While the Government was reluctant to support the Bill in its entirety, Mr. Zahawi confirmed that they would
undertake research in to the issue, including the operation and monitoring of a holiday club pilot scheme, after which time the Government would be better informed to decide next steps.
Mr. Zahawi stated: “I am, therefore, pleased to confirm today that the Government will launch research, as the right hon. Gentleman has requested, into how best to ensure that more children from disadvantaged families benefit from healthy meals and enrichment activities during the holidays, including through targeted pilots. The programme will include engagement with stakeholders and will enable us to assess the impact of Government intervention.”
Following the debate Mr. Field called it a “very important historic day” and welcomed the government’s response and commitment to working with key stakeholders to ensure that every child has access to healthy food and activities over the school holidays.
* Photos taken by Ben Stevens, courtesy of Kitchen Social, Mayors Fund for London.