The project was initiated by staff at Food Cardiff, Sport Cardiff, Cardiff Council catering and Cardiff and Vale Health Board.
‘Holiday hunger’ is a long-standing problem for children living in poverty. Without access to term-time free school meals, these children often go hungry. The lack of free play schemes worsens this problem, creating social isolation and sedentary lifestyles. Efforts to reduce health inequalities during term time are undermined by the absence of provision during school holidays.
Food & Fun clubs provide physical activities and nutritious food to Welsh primary school pupils during school holidays. They use existing school facilities and staff, involve a broad range of public and third sector partners and encourage family attendance.
Food Cardiff had been trying to tackle hunger before people needed to access food banks. Inspired by a holiday hunger conference in Sheffield in 2015, and long-established programmes in the United States, they decided to tackle this problem.
That summer they delivered morning sessions in five schools in Cardiff. They made sure to invite local politicians to get them on side, and they commissioned a full evaluation from Northumbria University. They took the evaluation to senior civil servants and the Cabinet Secretary for Health in Wales. He liked the idea, but challenged them to show it could work anywhere in Wales.
They sought funding from the Welsh Local Government Association (WLGA) to pilot in five local authorities. In 2016 it was delivered in 19 schools and a larger-scale Cardiff University evaluation was completed. A Labour manifesto commitment followed, a commitment to rollout in the 2017 programme for government and then £1.5 million Welsh Government funding.
Independent evaluation has found positive effects on levels of physical activity, diet, social interaction and attitudes towards school. The project has received more than six awards in public health, catering and the NHS.
Convening different organisations with different perspectives can enrich an idea and leverage support from different areas.
The combination of evidence and political support is ideal. One without the other is often insufficient to get an idea off the ground.
Winning awards, going to conferences and giving presentations can all have an impact on raising your profile and widening your network.