Hartlepool council commits £80,000 to tackle child holiday hunger

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Council chiefs have earmarked £80,000 to help stop children across Hartlepool going hungry during school holidays.

Hartlepool Borough Council is to continue its Filling The Holiday Gap grants scheme for another year.

It is designed to replace free school meals that many parents rely on.

The council says without help children from families in deprived areas can become malnourished during the holidays affecting their ability to learn when they go back to school.

This week, the council’s Finance and Policy Committee agreed to make £25,000 from its Child and Family Poverty Initiative Reserve available to the grant scheme for the upcoming summer holidays.

It has also allocated £10,000 for a similar scheme for this Christmas, and £10,000 for next Easter.

Also, £25,000 plus any money left over from previous schemes will be allocated for a summer 2019 scheme, subject to an evaluation of the results of this year’s schemes.

Councillor Christopher Akers-Belcher, leader of the council and Chair of the Finance and Policy Committee, said: “Families normally entitled to free school meals in the most deprived areas of Hartlepool can well become malnourished over the school holiday period, and children who are malnourished are clearly at a serious disadvantage when starting the challenges of the new school year in September.

“I am delighted therefore that, despite the financial pressures which the Council continues to face, we are once again making money available to help some of the most vulnerable families in our town.”

Filling the Holiday Gap provides grants to voluntary, community and public sector organisations and other charitable groups to support schemes they provide to children and families during the holidays.

Over the two-week Christmas break alone 15 town groups provided more than 3,000 meals, 981 snacks and 467 food parcels to over 900 children.

Schemes also ran in summer 2016, last summer and Easter this year.

Groups receiving a Filling The Holiday Gap grant are required to register with the Hartlepool Food Network to use any surplus food from the network to complement their holiday provision schemes.

The deadline to apply for a grant for this summer’s scheme is 5pm on Wednesday, July 18.

Organisations and groups interested in taking part can get more details, including an application form, at www.hartlepool.gov.uk/FillingtheHolidayGap2018

Alternatively, contact Steven Carter in the council’s Health Improvement Team on (01429) 523583.