Children in Northern Ireland (CiNI) are delighted to have been awarded funding for our Gets Active Holiday Hunger Project over the next 3 years.
Funded by the National Lottery Community Fund, the project will increase an awareness of the importance and impact healthy food has on physical and mental health development, and will provide the young people with the skills to prepare healthy meals.
It will also increase awareness of the stigma associated with food poverty and will empower and facilitate young people to raise the issue of food poverty to policy influencers and will develop young role models to share the learning and expertise gained from the project.
We will be working with young people in Downpatrick, Carrickfergus and Limavady in partnership with our facilitators Patrician Youth Centre, Carrickfergus YMCA and Dry Arch Children’s Centre who will deliver the project. This will complement our existing Holiday Hunger work in other areas such as Portadown.
The funding we have received is in excess of £400k over a 3 year period, giving sustainability and longevity to the services delivered.
This will allow us to address the systemic issues of child poverty through food hunger, which can lead to educational underachievement, learning loss and poor physical & mental health.
“Food poverty is a growing issue that can affect us all at some point in our lives. There is a huge stigma around this issue, meaning not many want to admit that they may be struggling. We need to combat this stigma so food poverty is no longer a ‘taboo’ topic and people can access the help they need.” Arta Barene, 15.
The Gets Active Holiday Hunger project will address food poverty by providing children and young people with a nutritious and healthy breakfast, lunch and snack during holiday periods. They will also participate in fun physical activity events and games to stay active active, improving their health and wellness. Learning-based activities such as OCN qualifications and Mini Medics will be available to address learning loss and educational progress.
Pauline Leeson, CEO at CiNI said “The project enables us to address the gaps in policy by providing opportunities to those young people with lived experience of poverty. We can then use evidence from our programmes to change policy to improve outcomes for all children and young people in Northern Ireland.”
Our tried and tested experience in this project in recent years gives us the confidence for the next 3 years. Our success in influencing government to continue with direct payments for those on free school meals until Easter 2022, will allow us to continue providing a platform for those in poverty to statutory agencies, politicans and civil servants to change policy and address these structural issues.
To date, the Gets Active programmes have successfully delivered local school holiday projects engaging children and young people by providing breakfast, lunch and snacks as well as physical activities sessions and education.
Evaluation of our work to date tells us that children and young people from low income backgrounds face multiple challenges to overcoming poverty, and therefore more year-round support is needed to achieve longer term and more sustainable outcomes.
This funding will enable us to work with approximately 500 children and young people each year, from the ages of 8 – 25. Parents will also benefit as they often face pressures during school holidays such as additional costs of keeping their children fed, engaged and active.
We hope to achieve a number of positive outcomes for the young people involved in the project including:
- Increased confidence, knowledge and skills in healthy living
- Improved health through nutrition and exercise
- Improved self-esteem, mental health and wellbeing
- Higher levels of social interaction and participation
- Improved educational achievement with less risk of loss of educational memory in holiday periods
- Reduced likelihood of children and young people engaging in anti-social behaviour.
With each of our local partners, children and young people are actively and meaningfully engaged in developing ideas and shaping programme activities in different ways, including peer-led consultations, youth committees, project advisory groups and representation on management committees.
This will continue during the life of the project as this lived experience is important to ensuring policy makers understand the issues facing children and young people.
We are so grateful to the National Lottery Community Fund for making this possible and look forward to rolling out this project over the next 3 years.
Roger Gowdy of CiNI explains further: