Some 4,000 Harrow children aged 5-16 who qualify for Free School Meals (FSM) will be able to book a space on holiday clubs, with a nutritious meal provided - totally free of charge.
Harrow Council and Young Harrow Foundation, a charity that supports voluntary sector organisations working with children and young people across the borough, has commissioned the funding to 17 charities and holiday club providers who will offer 128,000 hours of free activities and provide 32,000 meals.
This includes two exclusive programmes for children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND).
Many of the activities will be taking place within primary and secondary schools across the borough, allowing children access to opportunities wherever they are.
All activities can be viewed and booked on the Young Harrow Foundation website.
Harrow Council Leader Graham Henson said:
“Foodbank usage has risen by around 24% year on year before Covid-19. The pandemic has only exacerbated the issue.
“An increasing number of families in the borough struggle to put food on their children’s plates through the holiday periods.
“This amazing initiative will help replace those summer holiday anxieties with excitement for both parents and young people alike at the prospect of a healthy active holiday.”
The Department for Education (DfE) is funding local authorities to deliver the Holiday Activity and Food (HAF) programme.
This national initiative was sparked by a campaign by Manchester United and England footballer Marcus Rashford.
The summer HAF programme follows a successful Easter Pilot which saw more than 500 children each receive 16 hours of activities and free meals across the week.
One parent called the programme "absolutely fantastic, not just for the kids but for the parents too.”
See the pilot in action:
Food for the HAF Programmes is being provided by The Pantry. It will be prepared fresh in their kitchens with the aim of giving children delicious and nutritious food to fuel their activities.
Healthy eating resources will also be made available to parents.
Dan Burke, CEO of Young Harrow Foundation, said:
“The Covid pandemic has hit our children and young people hard over the past year, especially the most vulnerable. Finally, we have some welcome news, that those young people can be just that this summer - children.
Safely playing, running around, dancing, painting, and having fun with their friends. All with a healthy nutritious meal provided.
All of this wouldn't be possible without Harrow’s voluntary sector. 17 charities are working tirelessly to get a brilliant array of activities ready for all ages and abilities, and are looking forward to welcoming Harrow’s children for a summer of fun and food.”
Local private sector organisations have also rallied around the programme, led by Harrow School which has provided charity grants to extend the food provision to more children and young people, as well as offering facilities to support organisations running programmes.
John Lyons School is also contributing by making their facilities available to organisations involved with HAF and their pupils have been donating to the programme.
The Hyde Foundation and Barratt Homes have provided funding for 2,500 free meals. The Red Cup Cafe has also offered free vouchers to their cafe for families to win.
Local young person Dhara Ghandi, 21, has designed the artwork for this Summer’s HAF programme. Her work is being displayed on billboards around Harrow and she said:
“I was thrilled to get the opportunity to use my art to encourage families to sign up for the HAF programme,” she said.
“It was an incredible opportunity and I am so glad that I could contribute to something so valuable with my art.”
To book a place for summer, find out more about HAF Programme and to follow its progress, please visit youngharrowfoundation.org/haf-programme.