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Community hubs set up across borough to provide health meals for children during school holidays

PUBLISHED: 07:00 11 August 2017 | UPDATED: 07:41 11 August 2017

Children enjoying lunch and activities provided by volunteers at the Bower Park Centre as part of the Mayor's Fund for London Kitchen Social Programme. Volunteer Bruna Salerno serves lunch to Jason Howard

Children enjoying lunch and activities provided by volunteers at the Bower Park Centre as part of the Mayor's Fund for London Kitchen Social Programme. Volunteer Bruna Salerno serves lunch to Jason Howard

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Volunteers are keeping children healthy and happy throughout the summer holidays while schools are closed, as part of a London-wide programme.

Children enjoying lunch and activities provided by volunteers at the Bower Park Centre as part of the Mayor's Fund for London Kitchen Social ProgrammeChildren enjoying lunch and activities provided by volunteers at the Bower Park Centre as part of the Mayor's Fund for London Kitchen Social Programme

As free school meals are temporarily unavailable, communities around the capital have signed up to the Mayor’s Fund for the London Kitchen Social programme, encouraging hubs to give children and young people hot meals – and Havering has been no exception.

Lunch and fun clubs – run by volunteers and staff at Havering Adult College, Havering Road, Collier Row – have been taking place at various locations in the borough, since pupils left their classrooms behind.

Thirteen per cent of children in Havering are entitled to and receive free school meals, which is about 4,300 pupils.

Curriculum development manager Vedia Mustafa said: “It’s great for children to have free school meals but what happens when the schools close for the holidays?

Children enjoying lunch and activities provided by volunteers at the Bower Park Centre as part of the Mayor's Fund for London Kitchen Social Programme. Kite flying being enjoyed in the garden areaChildren enjoying lunch and activities provided by volunteers at the Bower Park Centre as part of the Mayor's Fund for London Kitchen Social Programme. Kite flying being enjoyed in the garden area

“Healthier food can be more expensive so it’s easier for low income families to buy the cheaper less healthy foods in store, which isn’t good for them.

“Although the borough is deemed to be affluent, there are pockets of deprivation in many wards and those are areas we are keen to work in.”

More than 30 community hubs across 16 London boroughs are delivering holiday food provision this summer, providing around 10,000 free meals to more than 1,600 children as part of the three-year £2million campaign which launched earlier this year.

In London, 500,000 children struggle for food during the school holidays who the scheme aims to help.

The Mayor of London Sadiq Khan, said: “It is unacceptable for any child in our great city to ever experience hunger or social isolation.

“Equally, it is not right that in a city as rich as ours, some parents are having to skip meals themselves to feed their children as they cannot afford a decent meal.

“Preventing young Londoners from going hungry during the holidays is a challenge that can be overcome by bringing together communities across the capital to look out for some of the city’s most disadvantaged children.

“Kitchen Social programme will help to tackle food inequality and provide London’s youngsters with healthy meals over the holidays, allowing them to flourish upon their return to school.”

But the scheme is not simply about feeding children healthy food until the schools once again open.

They will learn about food preparation as well as take part in arts and crafts and physical activities such as hula hooping, playground games and sports to keep them active.

Vedia said: “Keeping healthy isn’t just about eating the right foods, it’s about getting up and exercising rather than sitting down in front of the telly for the whole summer.

“We want children to keep moving during their time off so they can go back to school feeling ready for the next term.”

In April, a report by the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Hunger saluted the work of volunteers and charities in addressing holiday hunger and recommended that the government draws on the Mayor’s Fund’s work with Kitchen Social to design a national programme.

The Mayor’s Fund is now actively supporting the introduction of the School Holidays (Meals and Activities) Bill being put forward by Frank Field MP.

The bill, which has cross-party backing, would give local authorities the duties and the resources they need to facilitate the delivery of programmes that provide free meals and activities for children who would otherwise go without.

Vedia said: “To be able to provide these children with this valuable resource while they’re not at school, we need the government’s support and hopefully we can make this more and more regular until its automatically run at the end of every term.”

To find out more information about the London Kitchen Social programme, email familylearning@havering.gov.uk or call the Havering Adult College at 01708 434955

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