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Child looking at an empty plate

2 Nov 2016

Loughborough University and StreetGames join forces to tackle school holiday hunger

More than 15% of school age children attending state funded schools are eligible for and claim free school dinners. This is seen as an indicator of food poverty – defined as the inability to afford or to have access to food to make up a healthy diet.

There is growing evidence to suggest that many school children who rely on free school meals are left severely hungry and without a nutritionally balanced diet during the school holidays.

To try and tackle this problem StreetGames – a charity set up to make sport more widely available for disadvantaged young people – has been piloting a series of free meal schemes at summer sports clubs across the country, called the ‘Fit and Fed’ project.

This new initiative is aimed at offering children from poorer communities a fun and active summer holiday club, which also provides a free nutritious meal.

Loughborough University academic Clare Holley will now be assessing the impact of the summer clubs on children’s health and recommending to the charity what it can do to maximise these benefits and improve engagement with the communities they serve.

Dr Holley, from the School of Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences, said: “It is incredibly sad that in this day and age we still have families struggling to provide enough food with the right nutritional content for their children.   Not only is food poverty detrimental to children’s health, it also has serious implications for their educational future.

“At Loughborough University we want to be a part of the solution, working with StreetGames to assess the impact of their pilot scheme and help them role it out further to reach even more children.”

To carry out the evaluation Dr Holley has held a number of focus groups with pilot scheme leaders to find out what has worked well and what improvements can be made to ensure that the project is as successful as it can be.

Speaking about the pilot scheme Jane Ashworth, the Chief Executive of StreetGames said: “All over the country there are families that find it hard to make ends meet over the summer holidays. Their kids also need something positive to do and many join in the holiday programmes that are run by community organisations in the StreetGames network. It makes sense to help these community projects to provide lunch as well as sport.”

By the summer of 2017 StreetGames is aiming to have 250 clubs delivering 250,000 lunches to 7,500 children and young people as part of the ‘Fit and Fed’ project.

Loughborough University will continue to support the scheme by evaluating its success and offering expert guidance on how to improve the eating habits of those using the clubs.