Helen Bigham explores low-cost options for keeping children happy during the summer holidays
Happiness is not having to set the alarm for the next day, but with school holidays just around the corner this time of year can be a tiring and expensive juggling act for some families.
Without free school meals or teacher support, hunger and social isolation can be a depressing reality. Teachers report malnourished pupils returning to school after the holidays, having fallen behind compared to their peers. Many young people will never claw back this learning and health disadvantage to fulfil their potential.
Through the Mayor’s Fund for London schools programme, however, help is at hand. In Waltham Forest one project to result from this is the Munch Bunch Club for children under eleven, launched last year and running again this summer. The aim is to provide a safe place to go during the school holidays where children can take part in fun activities, make new friends and get a healthy free meal.
The club is working in conjuncture with Waltham Forest Council’s holiday activity programme, running 10am-12.30pm from Monday 29th July until Friday 23rd August. Primary schools which are part of the scheme include Handsworth in Highams Park, George Tomlinson in Leytonstone, and Edinburgh, Greenleaf and Chapel End schools in Walthamstow.
But the project is about so much more than just food. It also covers general mental and physical wellbeing, with the additional benefit of learning about healthy eating. A young person on the programme said: “I learned how to be creative with food and tried so many new dishes, like bean curry, which I would never have had before.”
For low-income families another local network is Eat or Heat, a Walthamstow foodbank that can provide free food for a limited period throughout the year via a referral from professionals such as a doctor or school teacher. If you’re in a more fortunate position you can donate as little as a tin of food to provide emergency support.
On the website eatorheat.org is a list of local community groups, businesses and charities who accept food donations on their behalf. Volunteers visit these locations regularly to collect food and bring it to the food bank for distribution. My one is local cafe Ziggy Plays Guitar in Highams Park.
Former US president Jimmy Carter said: “We know that a peaceful world cannot long exist, one-third rich and two-thirds hungry.” Every day we all need to find new ways to support our community.