Not looking forward to the summer holidays? Always find it tough to keep the kids occupied, the house in order and work at bay? If your children are currently in receipt of free school meals, they can join dozens of activities over the summer absolutely free. We wanted to highlight the Holiday Activities and Food (HAF) programme to make sure that every family that is eligible can access it. 

What is the HAF programme?

The Holiday Activities and Food (HAF) programme funded by the Department for Education has been available in Sheffield since 2018. It is a holiday provision for school-aged children from reception to year 11 (inclusive) who receive benefits-related free school meals. Following successful pilots between 2018 and 2020, the programme was rolled out to all upper-tier local authorities in 2021. Plus, it has not received funding for the next few years up to 2024. This means more children can be supported throughout the holiday period with a range of holiday activities and food programmes. 

The programme aims to make free places available to children eligible for benefits-related free school meals for the equivalent of at least 4 hours a day, 4 days a week, for 6 weeks. The HAF program covers, 4 weeks in the Summer, and has countless activities to choose from. Your kids could get involved in all sorts of sports, exercise, educational workshops, arts, crafts, drama, photography and much more. Plus, most sessions will include a healthy meal and refreshments will be provided. 

But, it’s not just about keeping children occupied. Many of the partner organisations involved are dedicated to helping children and their guardians understand nutrition and food budgeting. Activity providers will also be able to help signpost you to additional information and support, on things such as health, employment, and education.

Who is the programme for?

This holiday provision is for school-aged children from reception to year 11 (inclusive) who receive benefits-related free school meals. Benefits-related free school meals (FSM) are available to pupils if their parents are in receipt of one of the qualifying benefits, and have a claim verified by their school or local authority. Further information on eligibility for free school meals is available on the government website. Gov.uk, under childcare and parenting.

Local authorities are asked by the government to ensure that the offer of free holiday club provision is available for all children in receipt of benefits-related free school meals in their area. So, if you have not been told about the HAF programme and believe your kids are eligible, talk to your child’s school or visit sheffieldhealthyholidays.org to find out about all the activities in your area. 

Why the HAF programme?

Research has shown that the school holidays can be pressure points for some families. For some children, this can lead to a holiday experience gap, with children from low-income households being:

  • less likely to access organised out-of-school activities.
  • more likely to experience ‘unhealthy holidays’ in terms of nutrition and physical health.
  • more likely to experience social isolation.

The HAF programme is a response to this issue, with evidence showing that free holiday clubs can have a positive impact on children and young people and that they work best when they:

  • provide consistent and easily accessible enrichment activities
  • cover more than just breakfast or lunch
  • involve children (and parents) in food preparation
  • use local partnerships and connections, particularly with the voluntary and community organisation sector

In 2021, the HAF programme enabled Sheffield City Council to support thousands of children and their families throughout the Easter, summer and Christmas school holidays. For ShefFood, we believe that programmes like HAF can help bring food to the front of the conversation. Our young people need knowledge about and access to healthy, nutritious food to improve health outcomes for their future. By not only feeding but also educating about food, activity providers can help inspire a generation of food lovers and potentially the new growers and farmers of the future.

Visit sheffieldhealthyholidays.org to find out about all the activities in your area.