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Free hot lunches leave kids feeling full of beans

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Samuel Henderson webKids at Portsmouth City Council's adventure playgrounds have been filling their bellies with free food, and their days with free holiday fun during the summer break, thanks to Food Portsmouth and the 'Filling the holiday gap' scheme.

The six adventure playgrounds have been participating in the pilot scheme since the school holidays began on 25 July and will have dished up over 600 lunches by the beginning of the autumn term. The scheme enables children from low-income families who are normally eligible for free school meals to continue to receive a filling, hot meal during the school holidays.

Supporting volunteers from Food Portsmouth, a not-for-profit project based at the John Pounds Centre, play workers have been helping to serve up a daily lunch of baked beans on toast to over 100 children every week. The beans have been donated through foodbanks and the bread from FoodCycle Portsmouth.

Play workers have noticed that the children have literally been full of beans after their lunch noting an improved mood and increased energy to help them get through the afternoon's activities.

Megan Saunders, who heads up Food Portsmouth and led on the pilot project said “The project has been a great success this summer due to the hard work and support from all those involved – it’s a great demonstration of the power of partnership working. The pilot will now be evaluated to assess its impact on those involved, and to inform how Food Portsmouth can develop this project for future school holidays.”

Portsmouth City Council's Cabinet Member for Property and Housing, Cllr Steve Wemyss said "I'd like to extend a huge thank you to Food Portsmouth, FoodCycle and the numerous food banks who have made this possible over the summer. Schemes like this make such a difference to the people that use them, and you can tell it makes a difference to the children by the smiles on their faces and their sheer amount of energy! School holidays can put a lot of financial pressure on families so the free activities and meals provided at adventure playgrounds make a really positive difference to families in financial hardship."

Portsmouth City Council's acting Tackling Poverty Co-ordinator, Mark Sage, said "Food banks are a vital resource that can provide a few days' lifeline for people going through a tough time and we're really fortunate to have a network of food banks helping people in the city. We've seen the number of people using them double in the past few years. Poverty is a problem for all major cities. One in five children in Portsmouth are growing up in poverty, and in some parts of the city it's more than two in five. If you're feeling stressed about money and are finding it difficult to cope you can drop into Advice Portsmouth. Advisors will look at your budget, make sure you're getting all the benefits you're entitled to and can help to re-negotiate debt repayments, which could take a massive weight off your shoulders."

To find out more about Food Portsmouth visit www.foodportsmouth.org

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