#ActiveAte: Supporting families in the North East at Bilton Hall

23 August 2018

As many as 30 children attend Bilton Hall Community Trust’s holiday sessions each day, where they each receive two meals and play a host of sports activities.

The programme supports families in Jarrow, South Tyneside, a borough among the top 20% of the UK’s most deprived neighbourhoods, with some of the highest levels of unemployment in the country. During periods of struggle such as the school holidays, programmes such as Bilton Hall – which is free for most children - are a lifeline for many low income families.

“We are aware that there are a high number of families that struggle over the holiday period. I’ve got three kids and it’s a real challenge during the six weeks alone, let alone the rest of the year – so we do our best to bridge the gap when the safety net free school meals is removed,” explains Joanna Tuck, Community Development Manager at the charity.

Alongside children being well fed with nutritious meals every weekday for three weeks, they also receive expert sports teaching and learn both physical and social skills from fully qualified coaches. Joanna explains that for parents and families, knowing their children will get an active and varied experience at the holiday programme is a real source of comfort.

For parents and families, knowing their children will get an active and varied experience at the holiday programme is a real source of comfort. “At Bilton Hall, parents know that they can drop their kids off with a team of trained coaches who are all DBS checked and as it’s a free service, they know we have their best interests at heart – they know we’re a safe pair of hands," Joanna explains.

The community trust has had a membership with FareShare North East for two years, and as an independent charity it really relies on the food it receives. Deliveries include sandwich meats, fresh fruit and vegetables, yoghurts, snack items and milkshakes. But it isn’t just the nutritious food that is so vitally important for Bilton Hall – Joanna says it’s also the huge cost savings the membership presents that make it such a valued resource.

“For the cost of our monthly membership to FareShare, we could barely afford one box of sandwiches at a local supermarket – so it allows us to not only offer substantial, healthy meals using every ingredient, but also make significant savings in terms of our overheads. And this has had a real tangible effect on our offering.

“Thanks to the money saved, we’re now looking to extend the project next year so that we can run for longer over the summer holidays – in turn helping more and more families and children over what can be a really difficult period.

“We know that there will be a big demand for it, too. This year was the first that we ran for three straight weeks – in comparison to previous years, when we’d split the weeks up over the holidays – and we found the dropout rate declined considerably and we retained numbers.

“Without having a community space such as Bilton Hall to rely on, we know a lot of kids would end up inactive and isolated over the holidays, sat indoors while parents worked. Once children attend one of our sessions, they come back again and again.

“Our partnership with FareShare is vital to our operation, particularly during periods of additional pressure such as the school holidays - and we will continue to use it as long as we are able to.”

FareShare launched ActiveAte in June - a nationwide campaign to raise awareness of holiday hunger and increase its provision of meals for children at risk of food poverty this summer. ActiveAte supports projects which not only provide food but also activities such as sport. In doing so, children enjoy their summer holidays active and on a full stomach, able to return to school in September healthy and ready to learn.

In just one year there has been a 150% increase in demand for holiday food provision and FareShare is appealing to the public for donations. Just £7 could enable FareShare to provide 28 meals for children at a holiday project. To support our ActiveAte campaign, visit fareshare.org.uk/ActiveAte

Will you help us #ActiveAte school holidays this summer?