Back for seconds: The holiday hunger scheme which helped 2,000 people

From left Clive Hall of Hartlepool Foodbank, Councillor Alan Clark and Steven Carter, the councils health improvement practitioner during last year's pilot project
From left Clive Hall of Hartlepool Foodbank, Councillor Alan Clark and Steven Carter, the councils health improvement practitioner during last year's pilot project

A project to stop children going hungry during the school holidays is set to be rolled out again this year after a pilot scheme helped more than 2,000 people in just six weeks.

A total of 582 food parcels were given out to 339 homes in town during Hartlepool Borough Council’s pilot project last summer.

Christopher Akers-Belcher. Picture by FRANK REID

Christopher Akers-Belcher. Picture by FRANK REID

In all, 901 adults and 1,330 children benefitted from the scheme.

The project consisted of £13,000 towards food parcels which were handed out from three community centres across Hartlepool in partnership with Hartlepool Foodbank’s managers, the Trussell Trust.

Numerous community and voluntary groups also bid for a share of £25,000 from the council’s Child and Family Poverty reserve to provide healthy meals as part of their work.

Demand was so high for the food parcels that they ran out a week early despite offering half-size parcels later in the scheme so supplies lasted longer.

Councillor Kevin Cranney

Councillor Kevin Cranney

The council’s Finance and Policy Committee agreed a £42,000 funding package to tackle the issue again this year.

Councillor Alan Clark, who is also chair of the Children’s Services Committee, said: “It really hit home the deprivation and poverty levels in our town.

“I would like to see it rolled out again this year because there is absolutely demand for this project.”

Last year’s scheme ran between July 25 and the start of September.

Feedback from those involved in the food parcel element raised concerns that the format is not sustainable or practical in the long term.

They said it is too time-intensive and may not reach those who need help most.

This year community voluntary sector groups will be invited to bid for a share of the £42,000 to help tackle food poverty such as by providing food parcels or running healthy cookery courses and nutritional support for families.

Coun Christopher Akers-Belcher, chair of the finance committee, said: “It’s a bit sad that we need this scheme but our town has been hit by the Government and we have no option but to utilise our family poverty reserve in this way.”

Coun Kevin Cranney said the council needed to look at other times of the year when support may be needed such as winter and Easter.

Coun Paul Beck said children who benefit from the scheme return to school ready to learn and it boosts attendance levels.