A £38,000 council pilot scheme to prevent children in poverty-hit families going hungry during the school summer holidays has been given the green light.
The project, which will be partly delivered with Hartlepool Foodbank operators the Trussell Trust, aims to reach youngsters who benefit from free school dinners during term time.
Councillors yesterday agreed the pilot project which will run for the upcoming six week school holidays.
Food parcels provided by the foodbank will be given out from three new distribution centres covering the north, south and central areas of the town.
And voluntary and community organisations will be invited to bid to the council for a share of £25,000 funding to deliver holiday hunger initiatives such as providing meals.
Sally Robinson, director of child and adult services at Hartlepool Borough Council, said: “Many children in Hartlepool are in receipt of free school meals and the welfare of these children during school holidays is of concern when they are unable to access a meal at school.
“This initiative is designed to provide meals for children during the summer school holiday to ensure they do not go hungry and are well and ready to learn upon their return to school in September.”
Initial options for the distribution of the food parcels are West View Advice and Resource Centre or Hindpool Children’s Centre in the north of the town, Chatham or Lynnfield Children’s centres in the centre and Kilmarnock Road Resource Centre, Rossmere Children’s Centre or Owton Manor Community Centre to the south.
The parcels will include staple foods such as rice, pasta, tinned vegetables and tinned meat and fish.
It is estimated that a total of 480 boxes (80 a week) will be given out during the pilot at a cost of £13,000.
The welfare of these children during school holidays is of concern when they are unable to access a meal at schoolSally Robinson, Hartlepool Borough Council
Al Wales, Hartlepool Foodbank manager said the charity does not usually see a big rise in families referred to them during the school holidays but added: “I think what’s happening is parents are going without and extended families are helping.
“It is quite a long holiday period and it is quite tough for families in crisis to get through it if they haven’t got the support of school meals.”
And at a recent meeting Al attended on child poverty in Hartlepool she said ward councillors told of children making the most of community events where they could eat for free due to a lack of food at home.
The pilot project was approved by the council’s Finance and Policy Committee.
Coun Alan Clark said: “I welcome this report but think it is really sad that it is something we are having to do, but it is a sign of the times we are living in.”
Coun Kevin Cranney, committee deputy chair, welcomed the scheme but said promotion of it was key to its success.