Groups photo of children attending the HAF provision at Rugby Portobello Trust in Summer 2023

Over 3,000 free meals for Kensington and Chelsea children this winter 

More than 3,000 free healthy meals are being distributed to Kensington and Chelsea children during the winter break to support families in the ongoing cost of living crisis

Managed by the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea and funded by the Department for Education (DfE), the £450,000+ pot of Holiday Activity and Food (HAF) programme is offering free meals and activities to 1,000 children during the winter break.

The scheme is primarily aimed at supporting children on free school meals: DfE figures show that 4,491 pupils were eligible for free school meals in Kensington and Chelsea as of January 2023, representing 33% of all school children in the borough.

Kelly Cronin, who lives in North Kensington and whose daughter Mya, 13, receives free lunches and activities at Hornimans Adventure Playground in North Kensington, said: “I think this scheme’s brilliant. It’s an absolute life-saver, a godsend.

“It helps me at home to know that she can go there, have some fresh air and activities and that she’s safe and warm.

“It’s a relief for me to know that she’s being well-fed especially in this cost of living crisis. 

“Without this scheme it would be really difficult during the Christmas break.”

The free meals are distributed to children at youth clubs, sports clubs, and other events across the borough, which are also providing a range of sport, creative and learning activities such as tennis, dance, theatre and arts and crafts.

Councillor Catherine Faulks, Lead Member for Family and Children’s Services, said: “I think this programme’s absolutely fantastic. 

“We’ve been obviously incredibly aware of the cost of living crisis and the effect it’s been having on some of our most deprived families in the borough, which is one reason why we’re keen to do this.

She added: “Parents absolutely love the scheme because for them it’s free childcare and free food, but also a good socialising opportunity for their children.

“I guess it’s a shame we haven’t got more money to offer it to more children because there would be a huge uptake for it.”

Faulks said several wards in the north of the borough, including Golborne and Dalgarno, are some of the most deprived in the country and their residents have been particularly affected by the cost of living crisis and more specifically by sustained increases in energy and food prices.

She added attendance at local food banks has gone up significantly in the past few months.

Jagdeep Birdi, Executive Head Teacher of Colville Primary School in north Kensington, said: 

“As a headteacher, I see the impact the rising cost of living is continuing to have on local families. 

“This programme provides peace of mind that pupils will return to school next year having enjoyed a fulfilling and active winter break.”

Two children enjoying their free and healthy HAF meal at Solidarity Sports in Summer 2023

During the summer holiday, the HAF programme distributed more than 19,000 healthy meals to Kensington and Chelsea children and funded 33 organisations which provided a variety of sport and creative activities including sessions aimed specifically at those with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND).

Families can find out about available funded activities in Kensington and Chelsea through the Our City website

The scheme is also available in other London boroughs including WandsworthCroydon and Hammersmith and Fulham

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