Break Free: providing high-quality holiday activities while tacking food poverty among children in South Bristol

Amy Kington of Community of Purpose writes in this blog post about how ‘Break Free’ – a collaboration between Youth Moves, Feeding Bristol and other delivery partners – is helping to combat holiday hunger in South Bristol.

Most people look back and remember their school holidays as some of the best times of their lives. Going on trips and days out, times with their friends and family, free of school work and responsibility, maybe attending a holiday camp or activities week. What isn’t to like? Unfortunately for many young people growing up in Bristol today, this is not their experience.

Underlying poverty and community issues have been exacerbated by the economic crisis and the change to Universal Credit.  This has left many families unable to afford access to these opportunities, and in many cases has even undermined their ability to access basic needs such as food and getting three meals a day. So, rather than looking forward to the school holidays, the holidays have become for many a stressful time, when families who already struggle find it even harder to provide for their children and young people.

THE STRUGGLE in Bristol and particularly South Bristol:

  • Bristol has 18,900 children (under 16) in low-income families (23.2%), higher than the England average (20.1%) and higher than the previous year, with significant inequalities in the city.
  • The city has more than 13,500 young people who are entitled to free school meals (FSM).
  • In Bristol, 37 per cent of our 37,257 children take FSMs – significantly higher than the national average of 13.6%. There is also significant inequality in the city, and in some places the same neighbourhood. That inequality among our mainstream primary schools is most stark in South Bristol. The FSM% can rise to as high as 70% in many of the schools in this community.
  • Deprivation in the city has deteriorated over the last five years with Filwood and Hartcliffe & Withywood among the most deprived wards not only in the city, but the whole of the country.
  • As resources are scarce there is a lack of provisionof affordable childcare for this age range and good quality activities in South Bristol.
  • Children and young people who receive FSMs do not receive them during school holidays.

The answer we have come up with is to BREAK FREE from these issues.

To Break Free from:

  • Being hungry during the school holidays or being unable to cover the costs of lunches during these times.
  • Having nothing to do during the holidays.
  • Having nowhere to go other than staying at home or out on the streets.
  • Having no-one to talk to.
  • Having to pay for high-quality services.
  • Screens and boredom.

Break Free is a programme that delivers a range of accessible activities at the same time as alleviating holiday hunger. Our work is based on years of working in communities in South Bristol, feedback from young people and families and what we know works. It is a simple concept that uses a great consortium of partner agencies which includes Community of Purpose, Youth Moves, The Park, Avon & Somerset Police, DigiLocal, ECB Wicketz, Bedminster Down School, Bridge Learning Campus, Feeding Bristol and Fareshare South West who want to be a part of the solution. The project is led and delivered by organisations who understand these struggles and have the existing relationships with the young people, families and partners to deliver the programme. We also have some brilliant partners who donate resource and food, such as Boston Tea Party, Arthur David and Hobbs House Bakery.

According to the Bedminster Down evaluation of the transition summer camp August 2017, children report as more feeling more confident when moving to secondary school when they have participated in activities on the school site with older children and young people who attend the school, and when they have met staff in a holiday activity capacity.

Amy Kington is CEO of Community of Purpose who work with individuals, families and communities to identify assets, opportunities, rights and responsibilities to empower people in their every day lives.

Find out ways that you as an individual or as an organisation can contribute towards everyone in Bristol having reliable access to nutritious and affordable food through the Food Equality strand of Going for Gold.

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