31 August 2018
Over the school summer holidays three Manchester libraries are running free Read and Feed sessions for children aged up to 11 years.
Every day around 30 children and accompanying adults attend each library for an hour of activities followed by lunch. The families are all local, with some coming to one or two sessions a week while others attend every day.
FareShare Greater Manchester is working in partnership with the libraries and Good Mood Food - also a FareShare charity member - to provide lunches which include a variety of individual sandwiches, fruit, snacks and drinks.
On the day of our visit to North City Library, the children were enthusiastically making kaleidoscopes with other activities including circus skills, Lego building and craft. The children are all now members of the library and have taken part in the citywide Mischief Makers Summer Reading Challenge, a scheme designed to encourage more children to get into reading.
A few of the children are new to the area and have English as an additional language. Michael, Favour and their mum Hannah, who all speak Spanish, have recently moved nearby and have attended regularly. Staff at the project have seen their confidence grow over the summer and the children are engaging more and more.
Brothers Kelvin and Kenny, whose first language is Chinese, have attended the sessions every day, enjoying ham sandwiches and cheese sandwiches which they describe as “yummy and tasty”.
Sheena brings her three girls along and particularly likes that the children are finding out more about their community and making new friends from different schools. She thinks the food has been healthy with a good variety. “No child is left out and every child has been able to eat something they like,” she says.
Her 11-year-old daughter, Charlie says the sessions have been “welcoming and fun”. Her favourite foods have been strawberry shortcake yoghurts as well as tuna sandwiches.
Rachel has come along several times throughout the holidays with her three grandchildren. She’d like to see it run again next year. “The summer holidays are expensive and I look for free things to do. This is handy as it’s based locally and I don’t have to rush out and buy more food for lunch.”
The project has been a great place for families and children from different schools and backgrounds to meet. Parents have been swapping ideas for other activities in the local area as well as developing confidence to join the library and make the most of the range of services offered there.
Margaret Duff, Manager of the Read Manchester Project, explains that food provided by FareShare Greater Manchester has had an impact in a number of ways. “With FareShare food we can spend more on providing activities,” she says. “Everybody likes FareShare and is really happy with the project. The food, which we are able to provide for free, has drawn families into the library and they have even gone on to become members.”
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 or drama. In doing so, children enjoy their summer holidays on a full stomach, but are also kept active and develop their skills, able to return to school in September healthy and ready to learn.
To find out more and donate to FareShare’s ActiveAte campaign, visit fareshare.org.uk/ActiveAte