Christmas hunger: how Yorkshire initiatives are helping children and families with meals as the cost of living crisis hits this summer

Long summer vacations bring great expectations. Unsurprisingly, with the limitations on our lives due to Covid restrictions in recent years, families are clamoring for a welcome break from the monotony of the daily grind, but at what cost?

In recent months, the cost of living has skyrocketed; Rising energy and fuel prices are forcing many families to adjust their bills at a time when they are looking for some fun. And, now that there are no schools, feeding the family during the summer holidays adds to the financial burden that many already face.

In various Yorkshire communities, initiatives have been launched to help. In Helmsley, for example, Martin Davies and his wife Tracey, who run Barkers Café Bar, are delivering lunches to those who would receive free school meals during term time.

Children prepare salads as part of a Healthy Holidays Leeds activity. Photo: Hyde Park Source.

It builds on his work from last year, supporting English footballer Marcus Rashford’s work to end child food poverty. Marcus has helped raise the profile of the charity Fareshare, which redistributes surplus food to charities to ensure it doesn’t go to waste, and inspired people to support plans to combat child hunger in their own communities.

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The couple was forced to take action this year after Tracey saw a television interview in which a father expressed concern about how he was going to get through the summer break by working full-time and funding childcare and food while schools were closed and their children. she would not have access to breakfast and after-school clubs and free school meals.

Martin and Tracey reached out to their vendors for support and also asked customers to pitch in and pay for a lunch for the children involved.

The children participate in the Healthy Holidays Leeds programme. Photo: Hyde Park Source.

“The reason we’re delivering is if you can’t afford lunches, you can’t afford gas or bus fare to come to us, so we’ll deliver free of charge,” explains Martin.

He says the scheme covers his immediate area around Helmsley, including Kirkbymoorside and Ampleforth. Claire Lamb, chief executive of Helmsley Primary, one of the schools involved, says she has recently seen a surge in adoption of free school meals. She believes it is due to families struggling with rising costs of living.

After hearing the details of Barkers’ plan from Martin, she was willing to support him. “Families receiving free school meals will be able to access free lunches for their children during school holidays. Some families rely on these free school meals during school, and it’s great that over the summer break they can get a meal every day,” she says.

Each child receives a lunch pack containing a drink, a sandwich, fruit, chips, yogurt and a sweet. This summer, 168 students have been offered the lunch pack every day, seven days a week for six weeks. “There is a cost-of-living crisis hitting this country right now and especially for the underprivileged, so if we and our team can at least alleviate one of your concerns, that can only be a good thing,” says Martin. .

“We are a small cafeteria, and some of my suppliers are big and some are small, but we are all doing our bit. My wife really likes the old proverb ‘It takes a community to raise a child.’”

Michelin-starred chef Andrew Pern of The Star Inn at Harome also supports the program. “It’s great to get involved and help during the school holidays and team up with Martin and one of our great suppliers, L’éclair Patisserie,” explains Andrew. “Hopefully this will keep kids going through the summer to replace their school lunch. There will be a healthy and tasty pack every day and we all hope it will ‘fill the gap’ and help everyone have a great summer.”

Adds Stephen Thompson of L’Eclair Patisserie in Pudsey: “This could be the most difficult summer ever, certainly in our generation, so we said we could do it and our suppliers stood behind us.”

Separately, Healthy Holidays Leeds is once again offering a program of activities to support children and families over the summer holidays, as it has since its launch in 2018.

Kate Hainsworth, CEO of the Leeds Community Foundation, one of the initiative’s main partners, says: “Schoolchildren and their families are invited to join in creative, sporting and social activities over the holidays, where they can also access nutritious meals. With the cost of living crisis, as well as the increase in people accessing free school meals in Leeds, the program continues to provide a lifeline for those children and families who need the most help in these difficult times.”

Kelly Ramsden, outdoor education coordinator for Hyde Park Source, an organization funded by the Leeds Community Foundation to offer healthy holiday schemes with Rosebank Millennium Garden and Cross Green Growing Together in Leeds, explains that they support 80 children for 16 days as part of your summer vacation. provision. The activities, focused on cooking, healthy living and well-being, take place between 10:00 and 14:00 and breakfast, lunch and dinner packages are provided.

Kelly explains that the sessions are geared towards children between the ages of 5 and 11 whose families are eligible for benefits and free school meals. Cross Green, with its purpose-built community kitchen and garden, gives children the opportunity to learn how to cook and take home the fruits of their efforts, along with recipe cards for their families to reproduce healthy meals.

“Everything is so expensive,” says Kelly, who sees firsthand the impact the rising cost of living is having on families. “When they come to us, we are promoting healthy eating and they learn about fruits, vegetables and herbs and how to prepare simple meals. We provide food packets and also give you recipe cards to keep track of. We found that if the children are involved in the preparation of the lunch, they are very interested in trying the food.”

With many families feeling the financial strain, projects like the Healthy Holidays program are supporting parents at a time when they probably need it most. “Food shopping has gone up a lot, but even going back and forth or going out for a day costs a lot too,” says Kerry. “It’s really nice to know that they can go there and that they’re enjoying it.”

For more information visit www.leeds.gov.uk/children-and-families/healthy-holidays

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