Food and fun on the menu at FISH clubs

FISH club2CF
For the second year, holiday clubs supported by Norwich Foodbank have been running in several locations around the city – with both food and fun on the menu.

Helen Baldry reports.
 



School holidays can be a time of pressure on the family budget. Government provision of free school meals helps during term time, but hundreds of local families struggle to make ends meet in the holidays. Hunger is a reality for some families, which is where Food and Fun In School Holidays (FISH) clubs step in.

Over 680 meals have been served to children so far during the summer holidays in seven locations.

Hannah Worsley, Project Manager at Norwich Foodbank, has been delighted with the response of the community in getting behind FISH. Volunteers from churches, donations from the public, local businesses  and food given from gardeners’ allotments have meant that a hot, nutritious meal as been served at all of the clubs. Waitrose donated bread and bananas for families to take home with them. Hannah said, “This year the support has been good, if not even better than last year.”

It’s not just about food – low-cost entertainment is a challenge for parents during the holidays.  One parent of a teenage boy explained that if the family has a day at home, their son will raid the cupboards and continuously eat so a good meal and fun activities at the FISH club is very welcome.

The clubs strive to provide excellent activities that the children wouldn’t be able to do at home. Hannah said, “We didn’t want to repeat all the same activities as last year and we were keen to offer some really engaging, exciting activities. “I didn’t want it to be just art and craft or something they could do at home, I wanted it to be brilliant.” The activities on offer haven’t disappointed this year; amongst others, included Bollywood dance by Jayadance, CSI investigations by Right Angle Events and fossil hunting with The Little Story Telling Company. Parents report children return home buzzing from these new experiences.

The emphasis is as much on the activities as on the meal provided. Some families might feel a bit patronised if they are invited for a free lunch – and suspect a ulterior motive from a church - but they feel more comfortable going along to advertised activities – and enjoy the meal  beforehand.

FISH club1CFMore parents have stayed at sessions this year, which organisers have been pleased about.  Hannah said, “We’ve served more parent meals this year. More food is cooked than needed so parents can enjoy a meal if they want to stay. If the children are going hungry then the parents definitely will be. It’s nice to be able to offer parent s cup of coffee, a piece of cake and a break while the children are occupied.”
Although a Norwich Foodbank project, it is very much up to the church and community to deliver the clubs. Andy Eyre, Youth and Children’s Pastor at Norwich Central Baptist Church led the club on August 19 at George White Middle School. Andy said, “The club is a real practical demonstration of God’s love.”

Hannah has been encouraged by the media coverage in the EDP, Mustard TV and BBC Radio Norfolk – rather than dwelling on the acute situation of some families, the coverage has been positive about the action FISH clubs have taken to alleviate a negative position for families.
A lot of the problems occur because of poor budgeting. In fact a budget advisor goes to the Foodbank distribution centre and she is always inundated with questions. Hannah said 'One of the main reasons for referrals to foodbank is debt and this can often be attributed to problems with budgeting.' 

“It’s sad that it is needed. However, FISH clubs have a Christian ethos; we are serving wherever we need to and we are fulfilling our duty in a practical way.”

Click here to view Mustard TV's coverage of FISH clubs
Pictured: top: food served at George White Middle School. Below: entertainment provided by The Little Story Telling Company

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