As a result of the current situation, which has resulted in an increase in the poverty gap due to poor employment conditions for many people in the most disadvantaged areas, Hertfordshire are adapting their Fit, Fed and Read initiative. Working with numerous community organisations including Charities, CVSs, Sports Clubs, NGBs, Housing Associations and Coaching Organisations, they are helping ensure that the increased demand for free food and activities during the summer holidays can be met.
Fit and Fed is a StreetGames UK initiative formulated in response to a growing body of research on the triple inequalities of holiday hunger, isolation and inactivity.
For those young people growing up in disadvantaged families, the school holidays can be a very challenging time - particularly when they are sat at home alone, or hanging around street corners and their friends are - unavoidably - flaunting the great time they’re having on holiday or at the local sports camp.
Research shows, that there is a greater than 7 in 10 chance that if you are from one of the UK’s poorest families that your family might well struggle to feed everyone - which is evidenced by the proliferation of food banks emerging across the country.
60% of families on an annual income of £25,000 can’t always afford food in the holidays, and families on less than £15,000 report a “constant struggle”.
School holidays are supposed to be a fun time of the year, but for a generation of children from low income families it is anything but. Children are very isolated because there are no free activity programmes on offer, and they are at risk of going hungry because there are no free school meals. Studies from France and Austria have indicated it can take up to 6 weeks for pupils to recover educationally from their school summer holiday.
Fit, Fed and Read is the Herts Sports Partnership variation of this programme.
There are over 8,500 school age children in Hertfordshire that qualify for means-tested free school meals. Research shows that the intellectual, emotional and physical development of many of those young people will be retarded over the school summer holiday period, if they are not accessing the requisite levels of nutrition and exercise. It specifically targets inequality and looks to support and give a better start in life to those young people from Hertfordshire’s most disadvantaged communities and backgrounds.
It seeks to offer high quality holiday activity sessions - including support with literacy - in Hertfordshire’s most disadvantaged neighbourhoods, with a nutritious meal every day, free of charge. To deliver the programmes we have worked in partnership with some key agencies across the county, who are listed at the end of this article.
2020 Summer Delivery
We have had to approach this Summer differently given the current situation. We are, very conscious that where possible we will try to offer a physical opportunity rather than a remote one, as there has been a further need shown for this type of activity due to the lockdown period. Whilst we are unable to use the Fire Stations as they will still be operating lockdown procedures and not opening the doors to the public, we are instead securing school sites, where social distancing can be put in place more effectively. To do this we will be embracing the UK Active guidelines for operating holiday activities
Due to the increase in the poverty gap due to poor employment conditions for many people in the most disadvantaged areas, including furloughing staff, redundancies and zero-hour contracts, the demand for free activities and food during the holiday period has increased significantly and therefore we are working with local community organisations who will be delivering their own versions of Fit and Fed, these include Charities, CVSs, Sports Clubs, NGBs, Housing Associations and Coaching Organisations. To facilitate this, we hosted a Hertfordshire webinar in July providing details on how to run a Fit and Fed programme and how to access training, equipment and financial support, including the HSP package and we are also signposting organisations to the StreetGames Fit and Fed resource pack.
The HSP package includes funding of up to £1,000 for eligible groups, from Sport England’s Tackling Inequalities Fund, and support around training, food – including access and advice on nutrition and healthy eating – sport and physical activity programmes, marketing and simple monitoring and evaluation to evidence the impact of their interventions.
In launching the programme, Deputy Director at HSP, Jane Shewring said:
“The forthcoming school holidays provides an obvious opportunity to address the growing inequality chasm facing young people in some of our most disadvantaged communities. We know from the research by StreetGames and others, that since the lockdown, 68% of young people from disadvantaged backgrounds are doing less sport and physical activity than was the case before the restrictions were put in place.
“Moreover, the mental wellbeing of many of those young people has significantly deteriorated with this targeted group facing fears around the virus, trauma, social isolation and loneliness, stress and even bereavement.
“For many of these families, feelings of isolation, internal tensions, financial hardship and even violent relationships, have become part of everyday life which can be a miserable existence for the young people that we are trying to reach with this programme.
“The support package will hopefully help a raft of voluntary organisations – including some of our sports clubs – to deliver programmes for our young people over the intervening period, before the schools resume to something near normal in early September.
“We have seen over recent months just how many compassionate community connectors there are in Hertfordshire and we know from our insight that there is real willingness to help address some of the issues faced by young people over the summer holidays. However many community groups just need a leg-up in terms of support and signposting, as to where they may go to access relevant resources and funding.
“We are here to assist them in this process and would urge any such organisation to make contact with us, to see how we may help them in improving the lives of our young people this summer.”
Partners Involved in Fit and Fed Hertfordshire
Herts Fire and Rescue Service
The Herts Fire and Rescue Service has agreed, wherever practicable, to make available its local fire stations to host the Fit, Fed and Read programmes.
The stations are generally equipped with kitchens and some have facilities and equipment that can be used in the delivery of sporting programmes. When the fire tenders are taken out, all have a useful indoor space that can accommodate sport and physical activity for the young participants and, when not required for other duties, Fire Fighters are keen to support the programme through active involvement.
Hertfordshire Catering Ltd
HCL is a subsidiary company of Hertfordshire County Council (HCC). HCL provides cost-effective catering services to schools and colleges within and beyond the greater-Hertfordshire area.
Independently, HCL was keen to look at how it could help counter holiday hunger and we are pleased to have secured HCL involvement to the Fit Fed and Read programme. The company has worked with its suppliers to secure free fruit and vegetables for the scheme and provides a nutritious cooked meal for participants along with healthy eating workshops for those young people and their parents.
Hertfordshire Library Service
The Hertfordshire Library Service works in partnership with the project and has committed to attending all projects during the holidays to deliver a fun literacy sessions and offering visits to the libraries. This summer through their partnership with the BookTrust have donated 780 books to the programme.
Our local authority Sports Development Officers have endorsed the proposed programme and they have used their local insight, to ensure that the proposed programmes are targeted at the most disadvantaged young people and are delivered in a way which is complimentary to other local programmes on their patch.
Hertfordshire County Council’s reach to education and community support services is essential to target and respond to the intended audience. Families First is a HCC led, whole system, countywide multi-agency response to supporting family outcomes at a local level. It brings together organisations that provide early help services under one umbrella of consistent practice and clear processes.