England footballer Marcus Rashford has written to 15,000 Devon families encouraging them to let their children take part in a summer holiday programme.
The Holiday Activities and Food programme (HAF) is a Department For Education national project which will be overseen locally by Devon County Council.
Families who are entitled to benefit-related, free school meals aged from five to 16 can take part in the programme at no cost and schools in the county have distributed the letter to those who qualify. But some of the activities may also be open to other children whose families wish to pay for them to take part, if there are enough places.
In the letter, Rashford and Henry Dimbleby, the independent lead of the National Food Strategy, say:
“We wanted to let you know about the brilliant new Holiday Activities and Food programme that children can get involved in when the school term ends.
“We know that the holidays can be a really difficult time for families who are struggling to make ends meet. The holidays should be a time for every child to enjoy themselves rather than worrying about having enough to eat or how they can spend their free time.
“That’s why we’re really excited about the summer holiday programmes that are being funded by the Government and will take place across the whole of England.
“Places on the holiday schemes are available for free to children who receive benefit-related free school meals. Each local programme will provide delicious, hot, healthy meals, allow children to get active, help them learn new things, make friends and have fun.”
Devon County Council’s Cabinet member for children’s services and schools, Andrew Leadbetter, said:
“Over the past year, the county council has invested over £2 million on providing vouchers for families who qualify for free school meals so their children don’t go hungry over the school holidays. That scheme is operating again over the summer.
“But Devon has also received almost £1.7 million to deliver the HAF programme for 12 months. It will not only provide a wide range of enriching activities and exercise but also nutritious food.
“We’ve been working with a range of schools and voluntary and community groups across Devon to get this organised and I think it will provide excellent support for children and families who might otherwise be struggling over the long summer break.”
Among the activities that children can take part in are a variety of sports, arts and crafts, drama, cooking, water sports, forest school and circus skills. There are activities being staged in communities across the county. A full list of what’s on can be found at on the Holiday Activities and Food (HAF) programme page on the Devon County Council website.