Concern after claims Hartlepool children were fed 'super noodles' as their hot meal on a holiday scheme
Concerns have been raised over a scheme providing food for those in need during school holidays after claims some children are given ‘super noodles’ as their hot meal.
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.
However councillors hit out at the lack of consistency between providers.
Dr Pat Riordan, council director of public health, noted there had been evidence of ‘poor nutritional standards in some provision’.
Councillors also called for as much of the money made available to organisations to be used on food, instead of aspects such as travel.
Coun Leisa Smith said: “To be honest I’m absolutely appalled at how the money is spent.
“There are some organisations where their warm meal is super noodles and they buy vouchers for gifts. Their boxes are bags of sugar, breakfast cereal bars.
“This money needs to be spent on food, we have food banks, we have children that are not eating properly unless they are at school, you need someone who knows what they are doing to be able to provide a service for children.”
Councillors on the Finance and Policy Committee backed a motion to look at resolving the issue by going to one service to provide the food.
They will first look to the possibility of the council catering team, who provide school dinners during term time, to see if they could offer the service, and if not will go out to tender for an organisation who would offer nutritional meals.
If a suitable tender is not received the council would look to continue with the current system with enhanced criteria for application and evaluation.
Council leader Coun Shane Moore said: “It does range from super noodles right through to a good cooked meal.
“What the option will hopefully provide is a good standard and a consistent meal for our children going across the board.
“It doesn’t matter if you live in the north of the town, central or the south, you can guarantee that going forward all of the children who access this service will be able to get the same level of decent quality food.”
Coun Jim Lindridge said: “That’s what the kids need, that’s going to help their health and wellbeing in the longer term.”
Coun Christopher Akers-Belcher added: “It’s about giving the children who need it as much money as possible.”
Councillors added in the meantime the criteria for who receives the money would be tightened up, including for the Christmas 2019 scheme.
Over the last 4 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.
The motion also included continuing the funding going forward, with £10,000 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.