#ActiveAte: Getting fit and fed at Burgess Sports

17 August 2018

Camberwell-based Burgess Sports provides activities for children throughout the year, but scales up its operation dramatically over the summer in order to cater for extra demand.

Promoting sports as its primary focus, through FareShare the club is also able to offer holiday provision - including food – to ensure children receive a well-rounded experience and are kept well fed, socialised and active over the school holidays.

Burgess runs sessions from 10am until 3pm with extra ‘free play’ time from 9.30-10am and again from 3-4.30pm for parents who work longer hours. Around 90 children attend each day on average, aged from four up to 15 and - most importantly for low income families - 90% are able to attend completely free of charge.

Most of the children who attend live in the Aylesbury Estate - previously one of the largest estates in Europe, at one point housing over 7,500 people – and so for many of the families, Burgess Sports is an absolutely vital resource throughout the summer.

Given the rising costs of childcare and food and with the safety net of free school meals removed over the summer, many families in London and across the UK face a period of enhanced pressure and struggle.

Through Burgess, not only are children afforded free access to activities, but they also receive two nutritious meals a day – something that may not always be provided at home, due to parents having to work or simply not having the budget that healthy groceries demand.

Ally, director at Burgess Sports, said the food provided by FareShare has had a real, tangible impact upon the children who attend, particularly in terms of their behaviour. “Often at the beginning of the holidays we find children have no interest in healthier food and snacks, simply because they’re not used to eating them.

“But as they try different fruits, such as melon, pineapple and nectarines, as the weeks go by you start to notice a real difference in children’s behaviour. They have so much more energy and their concentration and attention spans improve, and that in turn makes them more active.

“We make sure that children who attend do a range of activities to keep them stimulated and developing skills - we know that those who are isolated over summer can often return to school in September at a disadvantage, taking up to two months to catch up with schoolmates. Over the course of three weeks, all children are welcome to learn and play all different types of sports, such as rugby, tennis and even BMX riding – sports they would not usually get exposure to in school.

“Cooking lessons are also provided by a local chef, who teaches children how to cook healthy meals – using ingredients provided by FareShare – so that they can learn the importance of both an active lifestyle and nutritious diet. Parents are even encouraged to attend so that they too can learn how to cook healthy food on a budget.”

FareShare delivers food appropriate to the club’s requirements each and every week. Child-friendly snacks provided include fruit such as nectarines, bananas, oranges, pineapple, apples and pears, as well as cereal bars, milk, cheese, bottled juices and water, and cereal.

Vernon, founder and chairman of Burgess Sports, can recall the lightbulb moment when he first realised how important it was for them to provide food as part of the club’s provision, “It was quite a few years ago now, when children were required to bring their own packed lunch each day. One child brought along just two slices of plain bread for his lunch – and that was it. It really hit home that food was, and continues to be, a really important part of what we offer.

"A lot of the children who come here often go weeks without eating fruit, so we started introducing competitive games in a bid to challenge them to try some – and soon enough they were really tucking in. With fast food so readily available and cheap, it often makes up the majority of their diet, so when they’re given fruit it’s as if their bodies are telling them how important the nutritious value of healthy food is – and they can’t stop eating it.

“The food we receive from FareShare is hugely important. Not only is it nutritious, but the impact it then has in terms of fuelling energy and therefore keeping the children active is brilliant.”

For more information and to find out how you can support our ActiveAte campaign, visit fareshare.org.uk/ActiveAte

Will you help us #ActiveAte school holidays this summer?