I wanted to share with you some amazing work that has had a huge impact in Nottingham over the summer months, but I am obviously saddened by the fact that we need to do this at all.
Nottingham has the fourth highest level of Income Deprivation Affecting Children (IDACI, 2015) - 38.23 per cent of our children live in poverty and 27.8 per cent of pupils are eligible for free school meals.
School holidays are a particular pressure point for some families because of increased costs and reduced incomes. We knew a year ago that without school meals there would be children going hungry during the holidays. Last year, we piloted a project in Nottingham for nine days over summer where packed lunches were made available and delivered to children attending community sessions in the city.
Volunteers included school cafeteria staff on vacation, local families, our lead member and councillors. Thanks to this success, we repeated the project this year with even more commitment from colleagues, local businesses and organisations. The project was led by four former Nottingham City Council children's managers who are now retired and much of the food was provided by FareShare, supermarkets and donations from the community. A real example of the community coming together to support Nottingham's children and families. A huge thank you to everyone involved.
Over the summer, we made 5,042 packed lunches for children received in community organisations and early help sessions, 1,400 children and young people attended play and youth sessions where they had the chance to get involved in summer activities and also helped prepare and share hot or cold meals. This allowed children to learn and take away kitchen skills as well as food!
Without initiatives like this, given our demographics, it is likely that many children would have been hungry each day in our city. I know that in many other places across the country colleagues and friends will have been doing the same for their children locally. A staggering four million children in England live in poverty, soon estimated to be five million. Despite this we are the only country in the UK without a child poverty reduction strategy.
The feedback that we received from children (a couple of which I have detailed below) made it even more worthwhile. My personal favourite is the happy food critic: "…I did not like the food, but that doesn't change anything so ThAnk You for sumMer" and another one of our children said: ‘Thank you from all my Heart to make our sumur holiday very tastey‘.
Helen Blackman is assistant director, Nottingham City Council. This blog was first published on the ADCS website