A pilot project to improve the health and wellbeing of children (4-12) and their families in Central Bedfordshire is expecting to distribute at least 1,250 meals a week over the school summer holidays.
The Holiday Picnic pilot is a joint initiative between Central Bedfordshire Council’s Public Health and Children’s Services with, Team Beds & Luton (Bedfordshire’s Active Partnership), has been created in response to some of the pressures resulting from COVID-19 and to improve access to healthy affordable food.
By engaging with families, the scheme aims to improve the health and readiness to restart school in September of over 500 children and their siblings, as well as encouraging families to spend more positive time together.
The Council worked with schools in Central Bedfordshire who helped to identify the participating families that, once a week, are now able to collect from the Council’s Children’s Centres a healthy pre-prepared picnic lunch with food for the entire family.
The Holiday Picnic pilot aims to encourage healthy eating and will supplement the government’s decision to offer supermarket vouchers over the summer to children eligible for free school meals.
Research has shown that the decrease in structured activity over the summer holidays, compared with term time, can negatively affect children’s learning and attainment.
So, families will also receive an age appropriate activity pack, to promote exercise, physical activity and use of Central Bedfordshire’s parks and outdoor spaces.
Cllr Tracy Stock, Central Bedfordshire Council Executive Member for Public Health, said: “The COVID-19 national health emergency has presented challenges for many families, including access to healthy food options and ways to keep active.
“So, we’re delighted to rollout this pilot Holiday Picnic initiative as a way to alleviate these pressures, particularly around food and healthy eating.
“We know that families have also had to stay indoors for long periods of time and though some restrictions are starting to ease it remains important to continue practising existing social distancing measures and hygiene guidelines.
“But it is also important to support activity levels, so we’re pleased to be working with Team Beds & Luton to provide families with physical activity packs.
“And we are fortunate in Central Bedfordshire to have many great local parks and outdoor spaces, which are the perfect place to enjoy some fresh air, get active and have fun, while keeping as safe as possible.”
Cllr Sue Clark, Central Bedfordshire Council Executive Member for Families, Education and Children, said: “We’re pleased to be providing healthy picnic lunches for families in areas of need.
“Though the school holidays have only just begun, the link between good health, wellbeing and learning is well-known, so by maintaining this over the summer we aim to help prepare children to restart school in September, concentrate in class and get the best out of their education.
“But in the meantime, we believe that this initiative can also help families spend more positive time together, strengthen their relationships, reduce isolation and, most importantly, enjoy themselves.”
For more information on Central Bedfordshire Council’s Children’s Centres go to: https://cbc.cloud.servelec-synergy.com//SynergyFIS/Childrenscentres.aspx
Schools that helped Children’s Centres with the Holiday Picnic initiative are:
· Templefield Lower School
· Kingsmoor Lower School
· Woodland Lower School
· Shefford Lower School
· St Andrews CofE Lower School
· Mary Bassett Lower School
· Robert Bloomfield Middle School
· Beecroft Academy
· Robert Peel Primary
- St Augustine’s Academy,
- Tithe Farm Primary School
- Hawthorn Park Primary School
The activity packs designed for the younger children include a skipping rope, foam dice, hula hoop, foam balls, rubber bats, frisbee and bean bags.
For the older children the packs include a variety of items ranging from a football, pedometer, frisbee, resistance band, dice, juggling balls, ankle skip, skipping rope, cat’s cradle and friendship bracelet making kit.
Research into the decrease in structured activity over the summer holidays, compared with term time: https://feedingbritain.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/hungry-holidays-1.pdf