A County Durham charity has joined forces with community groups and organisations across Bishop Auckland to provide more than 6,000 free meals to young people and their families.
A report from the All Party Parliamentary Group for Hunger estimates that up to 3m children are at risk of going hungry during the school holidays.
To help combat this, a team of chefs and volunteers at regional charity The Auckland Project have been preparing and cooking hundreds of healthy and fresh meals, to be distributed via 14 different holiday and youth clubs in the local area.
The project has run, in partnership with Incredible Edible Bishop Auckland, for the duration of the school summer holidays and by the end of the break it is estimated that 6,085 meals will have been distributed.
Food suppliers, including DeliFresh, Bidfood’s Gateshead depot and Darlington-based Acorn Dairy, donated vegetables, fruit, milk, cream and cupboard staples to help create the meals throughout the six-week period.
Durham County Councillors, Shirley Quinn, Christine Wilson, Tanya Tucker and Joy Allen also supported the project, contributing from their Bishop Auckland and Shildon Area Action Partnership neighbourhood budgets.
Volunteer drivers from The Auckland Project delivered the prepared meals to youth clubs, holiday clubs, church groups and school-based transition days across the Bishop Auckland area to be provided for free to children aged from 0 to 16 taking part in holiday activities.
A number of community organisations joined the initiative and distributed the free meals to local communities via various holiday activity clubs. These were, holiday activity clubs at the Bishop Auckland Fellowship of Christian Churches, Time for Toddlers, Auckland Youth and Community Centre, Wear Valley Christian Church Summer School, Shildon Alive, St John’s Church Summer Activity Club, St Anne’s Cinema Club, Incredible Edible Activity Day and Feeding Families.
Meals were also given out at King James I Academy Summer School, the Summer School at St. John’s School and Sixth Form Centre and Bishop Barrington School summer school.
And The Auckland Project’s Learning and Engagement Team established its own Holiday Club which met weekly at Henknowle Community Centre for a range of fun and creative activities. Parents attending the sessions were also invited to stay and enjoy the activities so families could have a meal together.
Charlotte Walton, Food Project Co-ordinator at The Auckland Project, said: “Reports have found that Holiday Hunger can be big issue, especially during the long summer holidays, and it is something that can affect so many people.
“We wanted to do something to help and it has been a real team effort. It would not have been possible to deliver more than 6,000 meals without the input of everyone involved.
“And working with so many different community groups, businesses and organisations from across the Bishop Auckland area has been really rewarding.”
Cllr Olwyn Gunn, Cabinet member for children and young people’s services at Durham County Council, added: “We know that school holidays can be a challenging time for families, with parents and carers facing the additional expense of keeping youngsters entertained and fed throughout the day.
“We really welcome this local partnership project which has provided meals for a lot of children in the area over the summer.”
Susan Justice, Head of Business Development, North East at Bidfood, said;
“Bidfood took no persuading to get involved with this amazing initiative run by The Auckland Project.
“Holiday Hunger is a cause very close to our hearts in Bidfood and our hope is that one day all children will have access to good, nutritional food in the school holidays.
“Until then we will work with The Auckland Project and their dedicated team to ensure we reach as many children as possible, and help make the school holidays a time to look forward to.”
The Auckland Project is a regeneration charity with an aim to create positive change in Bishop Auckland. The Holiday Hunger project is one of a number of community-based initiatives being run in the town. Other schemes include the Friendly Heritage Group, weekly sessions combining local heritage with dementia friendly activities, and Blooming Bishop Auckland, which supports horticultural and environmental projects in the local area.
For more information about The Auckland Project’s work in the community, visit www.aucklandproject.org/community. And to stay up to date with The Auckland Project follow The Auckland Project on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.