Summer schemes are helping to tackle 'holiday hunger'

Children at a holiday project

Gateshead Council is delivering more activities and feeding more hungry children this summer than originally planned.

Earlier this year, the council secured more than £200,000 from the government to develop summer activity schemes at 19 venues across Gateshead. The schemes were to provide free meals for children who might otherwise go hungry as well as a range of stimulating and healthy activities.

However, when the council compared the venue locations with the latest data on free school meals it realised that there were worrying gaps in provision in parts of the west, east and south of the borough, as well as a need for increased provision in areas of greatest need.

As a result, the council decided to increase the number of venues and providers to ensure that there was enough to meet the needs of all children eligible for free school meals.

Schemes are currently attracting hundreds of children daily from across Gateshead, with venues in Chopwell, Highfield, Birtley, Deckham, Winlaton, Bensham and Dunston reporting between 40 to 50 children attending each day.  One venue in the west of Gateshead reported almost 60 children attending.

Projects at schools at Parkhead, Kibblesworth, Birtley East and Heworth Grange are currently running at full capacity and all the athletics camps at Gateshead International Stadium are fully booked.

Up to 12,500 free places have been made available.

"We know there are children in Gateshead today who don't get any kind of proper meal outside of their daily free school meal, simply because their parents can't afford to provide one..." Councillor Catherine Donovan

Deputy Council Leader Catherine Donovan, who chair's Gateshead's Tackling Poverty Board, says: "We knew there would be many more families in Gateshead who would benefit from our holiday activity and food programmes, and the up-take this year seems to confirm that.

"We know there are children in Gateshead today who don't get any kind of proper meal outside of their daily free school meal, simply because their parents can't afford to provide one. That's shocking, and you almost can't imagine how this could happen in the fifth richest country in the world.

"But what has been a growing concern for us is what those families do during the six-week school holidays when free school meals simply aren't available. It's a nationally-recognised problem and it's even got a name - it's called 'Holiday Hunger'.

"Fortunately, this year we've been able to provide some measure of support for hard-pressed families and it appears to have been well received. Hopefully, we'll be able to offer similar support to tackle Holiday Hunger next year."

As well as providing a free meal every day, some of the summer schemes have been able to offer visits to the Chopwell Woods' Woodland Classroom which is run by Forestry England and the Friends of Chopwell Woods. This has given up to 500 children in Gateshead a chance to see nature close-up.

Summer programme - find out moreThe programme is also funding training provider TRN, to work with 15 and 16 years olds in Bensham to help them to be job-ready for the workplace.

As well as the summer projects, the council has also provided financial help to the Gateshead Foodbank, Felling Foodbank, and the Lobley Hill and Bensham food co-op, all of who are supporting many of the projects in Gateshead this summer.

Places on the free summer fun and food projects in Gateshead will be available until Friday 30 August 2019.

Children at a holiday project
06 August 2019

Gateshead Council is delivering more activities and feeding more hungry children this summer than originally planned.

Earlier this year, the council secured more than £200,000 from the government to develop summer activity schemes at 19 venues across Gateshead. The schemes were to provide free meals for children who might otherwise go hungry as well as a range of stimulating and healthy activities.

However, when the council compared the venue locations with the latest data on free school meals it realised that there were worrying gaps in provision in parts of the west, east and south of the borough, as well as a need for increased provision in areas of greatest need.

As a result, the council decided to increase the number of venues and providers to ensure that there was enough to meet the needs of all children eligible for free school meals.

Schemes are currently attracting hundreds of children daily from across Gateshead, with venues in Chopwell, Highfield, Birtley, Deckham, Winlaton, Bensham and Dunston reporting between 40 to 50 children attending each day.  One venue in the west of Gateshead reported almost 60 children attending.

Projects at schools at Parkhead, Kibblesworth, Birtley East and Heworth Grange are currently running at full capacity and all the athletics camps at Gateshead International Stadium are fully booked.

Up to 12,500 free places have been made available.

"We know there are children in Gateshead today who don't get any kind of proper meal outside of their daily free school meal, simply because their parents can't afford to provide one..." Councillor Catherine Donovan

Deputy Council Leader Catherine Donovan, who chair's Gateshead's Tackling Poverty Board, says: "We knew there would be many more families in Gateshead who would benefit from our holiday activity and food programmes, and the up-take this year seems to confirm that.

"We know there are children in Gateshead today who don't get any kind of proper meal outside of their daily free school meal, simply because their parents can't afford to provide one. That's shocking, and you almost can't imagine how this could happen in the fifth richest country in the world.

"But what has been a growing concern for us is what those families do during the six-week school holidays when free school meals simply aren't available. It's a nationally-recognised problem and it's even got a name - it's called 'Holiday Hunger'.

"Fortunately, this year we've been able to provide some measure of support for hard-pressed families and it appears to have been well received. Hopefully, we'll be able to offer similar support to tackle Holiday Hunger next year."

As well as providing a free meal every day, some of the summer schemes have been able to offer visits to the Chopwell Woods' Woodland Classroom which is run by Forestry England and the Friends of Chopwell Woods. This has given up to 500 children in Gateshead a chance to see nature close-up.

Summer programme - find out moreThe programme is also funding training provider TRN, to work with 15 and 16 years olds in Bensham to help them to be job-ready for the workplace.

As well as the summer projects, the council has also provided financial help to the Gateshead Foodbank, Felling Foodbank, and the Lobley Hill and Bensham food co-op, all of who are supporting many of the projects in Gateshead this summer.

Places on the free summer fun and food projects in Gateshead will be available until Friday 30 August 2019.

More Gateshead news

Share this page