Parents are being encouraged to sign their children up for summer holiday clubs with meals in a film backed by footballer Marcus Rashford.
The Food Foundation charity has launched a video to raise awareness of the Government’s £220 million Holiday Activities and Food Programme for children across England ahead of the summer break.
Rashford, the England and Manchester United striker, and Henry Dimbleby, co-founder of the Leon restaurant chain, have both supported the campaign.
It came as findings from a survey suggest that 30% of parents of school-aged children are worried about feeding their children over the summer holidays.
This is higher among parents with children on free school meals (FSMs) with 49% worried about feeding their children over the summer holidays.
The survey, of more than 2,000 parents of school-aged children, suggests that 24% have heard of the Holiday Activity and Food (HAF) programme.
Less than half (43%) of parents with children on FSMs – who are entitled to free places on the programme – are aware of the scheme.
The holiday programme is targeted to support children who have been most affected by the pandemic, offering a safe and supportive environment where they can learn, be active, eat well, and make friends.
Rashford said: “I know only too well that the holidays can be a really difficult time for families who are struggling.
“It’s such a weight off their shoulders to know that there is a safe space for their children to go, where their minds can be stimulated, and where they are guaranteed at least one meal a day.”
Mr Dimbleby, the independent lead of the National Food Strategy, said: “The Holiday Activities and Food programme is a great step forward in expanding what’s being offered to children through the holidays.
“It will mean that children and young people on free school meals not only don’t go hungry when term ends but also eat healthily and have fun.
“I hope that schools and local authorities help get the word out so that parents know that these programmes are available for their children, and that local authorities share the film and make it as easy as possible for parents to find out about your HAF scheme before the summer holidays start.”
Parents can sign their children up for their local summer programme and are encouraged to find out what’s on in their area via their local council website.
Children and Families Minister Vicky Ford said: “Thousands of young people will continue to benefit from the expanded Holiday Activities and Food programme, which the Government is expanding across the whole country with investment of up to £220 million.
“This summer it will continue to provide nutritious food, as well as activities like arts and crafts, sport, and music, to the children who would benefit the most – especially those eligible for free school meals.
“I’m grateful for the support of Henry Dimbleby, Marcus Rashford and the Food Foundation as champions for the programme and I hope many others follow their lead.
“I urge parents and families to have a look at what’s on in their area for the summer holidays.”