Mary D’Arcy, from Southampton City Council, stressed the importance of the Holiday, Activity and Food Programme (HAF) in supporting children and young people over the school holidays. The programme was launched after a campaign by Marcus Rashford MBE. Rashford, set up a petition for the cause in 2020 and was signed by more than a million people, he said it would improve the lives of nearly 1.7 million children.
Funding from the government has come to Southampton City Council to help families eligible for free school meals and are struggling to feed their children during the summer holidays.
At the Southampton Cost of Living Summit, Mary D’Arcy reported back that the HAF programme has provided over 37,000 sessions of activities across the city in over 60 sites. Over 5,000 eligible pupils accessed the programme with 38,000 individual healthy meals to pupils/families.
Southampton has seen an increase in children who are eligible for Free School Meals in the past few years to over 11,200 school aged children with 6821 in primary schools. Pupils from every school in Southampton attended a HAF provision.
The Southampton Summit started with a Channel 5 TV News Piece about the HAF programme run by Oasis Hub east Southampton this summer at Oasis Academy Mayfield. Hub Leader, Karen Dawkins attended the summit and said, ‘Our schools are seeing first-hand the impact of the cost-of-living crisis and it’s humbling to be part of the HAF programme, which is a lifeline to so many of our families, particularly during the long summer break. We are grateful for this partnership with Southampton City Council, City Catering, Hampshire Harrier basketball team and Hamble PAN Disability and others that have helped make our programme at Oasis Academy Mayfield such a success.’
The summit was funded by a grant to Love Southampton from the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities.