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Posted on 20th October 2021

Holiday Activities and Food Programme: Lessons from Summer 2021

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Four years ago, Feeding Britain drafted the School Holiday (Meals and Activities) Bill which called on the Government to initiate, for the very first time, a national programme of holiday provision for children and families. Having won cross-party support from more than 120 MPs, led by our Trustee Frank Field, the Bill succeeded in gaining a commitment from the Government to introduce a three-year pilot programme, between 2018 and 2020, under the banner of ‘Holiday Activities and Food’ (HAF).

For 2021, the Government made good on its commitment to scale up HAF, with £220 million made available to local authorities in England to coordinate free holiday activities and food over Easter, Summer and Christmas holidays.The programme was open to all children who receive benefits-related free school meals.

Across the Feeding Britain network, over 100,000 children took part in HAF in Summer 2021. The programme has delivered a range of positive outcomes relating to food insecurity, physical activity, and access to childcare. These quotes, from children in Mansfield, show just some of the things children loved about their summer holidays:

“I enjoyed the food tasting and going to the allotment and trying the vegetables that we picked.”

“I like it here because you can make stuff here and make friends with people you don’t even know.”

“10 out of 10. I like the sports teachers and all the sports activities that we do. I really like the playground and I like eating outdoors. I love the sand and all the play animals.”

 Key themes and lessons learnt across the Feeding Britain network this summer include: 

  • Children, parents and holiday clubs all want to see the programme continued in the future. Children reported having fun, memorable, and healthy summers. Parents and carers reported that HAF has been a significant source of support for them. 
  • Longer-term funding and lead-in times would make the programme even better. 
  • There is a need for provision during half terms, as well as end of term holidays. 
  • There are challenges with restricting eligibility to children on free school meals. In some areas, local authorities were granted permission to deliver provision that was open to all families but targeted in areas of highest need – generally this approach worked very well. 
  • Drawing on the existing strengths in communities was crucial in delivering a successful programme.There is already amazing work happening on the ground, and lots of groups with knowledge and experience of delivering holiday programmes and engaging the families who can most benefit from the programme.

Find out more by reading our full report of lessons for policy and practice here:

The pictures in this blog are of children in Mansfield and Barnsley enjoying HAF programmes in Summer 2021.