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Local charities prepare for pressure as school holidays begin in Scotland and Northern Ireland

5 July 2022

School holidays began last week for children in Scotland and Northern Ireland, and many food charities are expecting a busy summer.

The school holidays can be a very difficult time for parents. This year, with the cost of living crisis already squeezing family budgets tight, many are worried about the effect of this extra pressure.

“Parents love their children and they want them to be able to enjoy the summer,” says Michael Masters, Dare 2 Care Project Team Leader for the charity Via Wings in Dromore, Northern Ireland. “But for many parents it’s another pressure at a time when there’s very little slack in the system. Working parents have to pay for childcare or take time off, while the food bills have gone up because their children are no longer getting a meal through school.”

Jennifer Harvey, who works at Pulteneytown People’s Project in the north of Scotland concurs: “It’s very hard for parents to be able to make up that gap when they’re already having to choose between putting food on the table and paying for other things like fuel and heating.”

As Douglas Ormston of TD1 Youth Hub in Galashiels, Scotland, points out, many parents are already making sacrifices: “Parents are working longer hours, and it’s harder and harder for them to plan the finances, the shopping, and find time to cook a meal for their children. Because their parents are having to work more to keep up with the costs, we’re seeing more kids who are eating at odd hours or missing breakfast.”

“Many of the children would never get a holiday otherwise”

All three charities are running programmes for children over the summer holidays that combine food with fun. As Michael says of Via Wing’s children’s programme, Mini-Wings: “We go on field trips and thing like that, many of the children never get a holiday otherwise.”

The variety and flexibility of the food FareShare provides makes it easier for these charities to create kid-friendly meals and snacks to take with them on activities.

“Food is part of every activity,” Douglas says, describing TD1’s summer activity programme. “We’re always out and about but with FareShare we can often make sandwiches or a packed lunch. The important thing is just to get some food in them, providing them with something so they go home with a smile on their face.”

In addition to snacks and meals at after-school and holiday clubs, Pulteneytown People’s Project provide take-home food through their childcare programme: “Just simple things like cereal and fruit. Having these kinds of foods in the house makes it easier for parents to give their children a quick breakfast or snack, or even for kids to help themselves if their parent is at work.”

Giving families options

As Douglas explains, the school holidays can be a time of stress for children as well as their parents: “An 11 year old who’s already at a difficult point in their lives – making that transition into secondary school – we don’t want them to have to worry about where their next meal comes from.”

The ability to give their children a better summer is a huge relief to struggling parents, as Jennifer attests: “Families are grateful to be able to provide little things like fresh fruit and veg or picnic lunches for their children. It’s awful for parents to feel restrained in what they can give their children, to not be able to give them a good meal or a treat over summer. Anything we can do to help give them those options makes a difference.”

Michael agrees: “FareShare is really at the heart of our food provision. The choice of fresh and ambient food we’re able to offer people gives them dignity and the ability to choose for their families. We wouldn’t be able to do that without FareShare.”

Worries for the future

“It’s really worrying that bills are still such a concern at this time of year, as the weather warms up,” admits Michael. “Even with the heating off, people are struggling to pay just to heat their water.”

“We’re seeing increased numbers of people who are working full time but are no longer able to make ends meet,” he continues. “We’re seeing signs that malnutrition is becoming a growing problem for the working poor. Being able to provide fresh fruit and veg from FareShare really means a lot. Families can’t afford to buy food themselves so what we’re able to provide through FareShare means that their children can have a balanced meal.”

Jennifer also worries that pressure will continue to increase even after the holidays: “We’re seeing more and more people in need of food, new faces, people who are working and would never have had to ask for help before. We’re very worried not just for the summer but about what happens this winter when heating costs rise again.”

As Douglas explains, when things are tough every bit of support we can offer means that much more: “If we can provide these children with even a bit of food in the week that’s one less worry, one less pressure, for them and their parents.”

Michael loads up a Via Wings delivery van in Dromore, Northern Ireland

“If we can provide these children with even a bit of food in the week that’s one less worry, one less pressure, for them and their parents.”

Douglas Ormston, TD1 Youth Hub, Galashiels

Holiday clubs and activity programmes provide food and fun