As we pass the one-year mark since the UK went into the first lockdown, we wanted to reflect on where we have been, where we are and where we are heading. Many of the services for children and young people had shifted during the pandemic. Some of our services were reduced or offered remotely. It was essential for us that we continued to provide services for the community, particularly for families that might not have known about the range of services that we provide.
It remained essential for us to ensure we could respond to the community need, with many families facing increased pressures resulting from the pandemic.
Those children most at risk of hunger during the holidays may also suffer from social isolation, loneliness, and inactivity. These factors combined can lead to significant weight loss or gain and negative impacts on physical and mental well-being.
It has been reported that 3 million children in the UK are at risk of going hungry during the school holidays (source: Feeding Britain). Working with Worcestershire County Council, readysteadyworcs has been formed to enable local voluntary and community organisations to respond to the much-needed work within the communities. For YMCA, we developed the happiness hamper project. The Happiness Hamper project has supported local families with additional resources, including food and activity packs throughout the school holidays. Activity bags were filled with lots of fun activities for children to entertain during the holidays, whether it be a hula hoop, arts and crafts or slime making kit. Each family also received a supermarket voucher within their hamper so that they could buy fresh food and vegetables for the week. It was essential to be able to offer this to provide choice to each family.
Over the past 12 months, over 2000 families have received happiness hampers from the project. The hampers were distributed through local schools and churches in the area.
A parent shared “I just wanted to send a message to say a huge Thank you!! I can’t begin to describe the relief! If there is ever anything I can do to pay it forward in the future please let me know. I do have some bags of toys and children’s/ adults clothes ready for a charity shop if that could be donated your way let me know!”
“Thank you so much. I will have 2 very happy girls. The last 4 months have been extremely hard on both of them. Our youngest is life limited and has had 19 resus admissions in 21 weeks.”
Each hamper had been specifically designed for each age group to give them a range of choice in each hamper. It also encouraged families to spend time together playing or cooking throughout the holiday.
Holiday hunger is a growing concern that has increased in the past 12 months. It was important for local organisations to work together to ensure families could access the support when they needed it. The response and feedback from families and schools have been excellent.
It was important for YMCA Worcestershire to be part of the Covid-19 Community response and support local people. The project has received The High Sherrif of Worcestershire award as a commendation for its impact.
The project has been delivered as part of the #readysteadyworcs working with Worcestershire Children’s First funded through The National Lottery Coronavirus Community Response Fund. Working closely with key partners, including Young Solutions, The Bromsgrove Hub, and local schools, have made this possible.
As we take steps towards reopening, our easter holiday YPLAY club have provided 20 funded places in Redditch and Malvern; the clubs have provided breakfast and lunch for children as part of our wider childcare offer.