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How we are providing free holiday club places and healthy meals for children that need it most

Posted by: , Posted on: - Categories: Free School Meals, Holidays, School food

Evidence suggests that attending holiday clubs can have a positive impact on children’s learning, health and wellbeing.

This is especially true of clubs that provide enrichment activities – these are activities that complement what children learn at school - as well a healthy meal. It is also true for those clubs that involve children and parents in preparing healthy food.

We are continuing to offer the Holiday Activity and Food (HAF) Programme to families that need it most, so children can benefit from free, nutritious food and organised activities in the school holidays.

Here’s what you need to know.

What is the Holiday Activity and Food (HAF) programme?

The HAF programme provides free holiday club places and healthy meals for children and young people from low-income families - primarily those in receipt of free school meals (FSM). This holiday provision is for school aged children from reception to year 11 (inclusive).

It supports children’s learning and experiences, boosts public health priorities on healthy living, and, by offering free holiday childcare, helps parents to access work during the holiday period, in turn boosting the economy.

How does the programme work?

HAF is funded by Government and run by councils who help deliver the holiday clubs.

Some councils may coordinate the clubs and others may work with another organisation to provide clubs for children locally.

Clubs will offer engaging and enriching activities such as arts, sports, drama, and music which provide opportunities to develop and strengthen skills or knowledge. Activities on offer can also include trips and other valuable learning experiences.

Clubs must also provide healthy free meals, nutritional education, and physical activities on a daily basis.

When is the programme offered?

HAF clubs are offered over Christmas (for a week), over Easter (for a week), and over summer (for four weeks).

Providers must provide at least one meal a day and all food provided at the holiday club must meet school food standards. It’s voluntary for eligible children to attend.

Are there many children accessing the HAF programmes?

Figures show that around 600,000 children benefitted from the scheme over summer 2022 across over 8,000 clubs in England.

To continue supporting families most in need, we have confirmed over £200m in funding for local authorities for the programme in 2023, enabling every local authority across England to continue to provide for their communities.

Who can benefit from the programme and how can I get involved?

HAF is primarily for children in primary or secondary school who receive benefits-related free school meals, though councils do have some flexibility to provide free access to other children.

We also encourage councils to make the holiday clubs available to any children not eligible for and in receipt of free school meals, who can pay to attend.

We want all children who attend the programme to benefit from:

  • Enriching Activities – learning new things and having fun.
  • Good food and being active – eating a tasty and nutritious meal, learning more about food and nutrition and being physically active
  • Meeting people – socialising and enjoying being with friends.

For information on how you and your family can get involved, please contact your local council.

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