Almost 4,000 children fed by scheme to prevent holiday hunger in Hartlepool as poverty remains 'significant issue' in town

Almost 4,000 children have been fed by a scheme to stop young people going hungry in school holidays – with 17,500 meals served to people in need since summer 2018.

Wednesday, 6th November 2019, 11:54 am
File picture by Chris Radburn/PA Wire
File picture by Chris Radburn/PA Wire

The ‘Filling the Holiday Gap’ scheme provided by Hartlepool Borough Council offers grants to organisations to provide food and activities to young people as part of their holiday programmes.

Over the four main holiday periods; summer 2018, Christmas 2018, Easter 2019 and summer 2019, funding from the council’s child and poverty reserve supported 50 organisations.

During this holiday period of 16 weeks, 3,931 children, 793 adults and 3,043 families attended the projects and benefited from 17,539 meals, 1,677 food parcels, 9,184 snacks and 1,545 combined snacks and meals.

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Council bosses are now looking to continue the scheme for each holiday period going forward to 2020 and have identified areas for improvement.

These include increasing the healthiness of meals offered, after ‘evidence of poor nutritional standards in some provision’, and ensuring it is consistent throughout.

A report from council director of children’s and joint commissioning service Sally Robinson and director of public health Dr Pat Riordan states the project is important to the town.

It said: “Filling the Holiday Gap is a key priority within Hartlepool Child and Family Poverty Strategy and poverty in general remains a significant issue in Hartlepool.

“It is clear that the holiday hunger scheme is meeting a high level of need, has reached a large cohort of children and should be considered as a priority for continued funding.

“The purpose of “Filling the Holiday Gap” is to provide children during school holiday time with a meal.

“But in recent schemes evaluation forms have highlighted family activities, family meals and the provision of food parcels to families.”

The council officers are recommending testing the feasibility of procuring a catering provider to work in partnership to distribute more nutritional meals from Easter 2020.

If a suitable tender is not received the council would look to continue with the current system with enhanced criteria for application and evaluation.

Historically funding for the scheme comes from the council child and family poverty reserve, which would continue.

£10,000 would be made available for each of the Christmas 2019 and Easter 2020 schemes, while £25,000 would be made available for the Summer 2020 scheme, the same as in recent years.

The proposals will go before the council Finance and Policy Committee on Monday for discussion and approval.