Merthyr Tydfil schoolchildren are willingly going back to school this summer – as part of an initiative to make them healthy, happy and physically active.
The pupils of Goetre, St Aloysius RC, St Mary’s RC and St Illtyds RC Primary Schools have been enjoying meals, nutrition education and physical activity sessions as part of the Food and Fun School Holiday Enrichment Programme (SHEP).
This is the fourth year that SHEP has been run from Goetre Primary school and is the first year that St Aloysius have hosted the SHEP programme, which is being offered to the pupils of all three catholic primary schools, and staffed by pupils across each of the schools.
Merthyr Tydfil County Borough Council’s School Meals service has been working closely with organisations including Active Merthyr, on delivering the programme to the schools.
Running for 12 days over 3 weeks at the beginning of the summer break, the free sessions begin with breakfast, and conclude with lunch, ending at 1.30pm.
“The school summer holidays are a crunch point for low-income families,” said Merthyr Tydfil County Borough Council Leader and Cabinet Member for Learning, Cllr Lisa Mytton. “Children who benefit from free school meals often miss meals and go hungry once their school shuts for the holidays, while the lack of free play schemes and sports activities impacts most on disadvantaged children.
“A sedentary lifestyle and reduced access to nutritious meals in the school holidays reinforces existing health inequalities and undermines the success of free school breakfast and lunch policies,” she added.
“This is a fabulous initiative, and I am so proud that we have this programme in Merthyr Tydfil.”
Food and Fun is a multi-agency programme, part funded by the Welsh Government and facilitated by the Welsh Local Government Association to provide healthy meals and physical educational activities to children during the summer holidays.
A Total of 21 Welsh local authorities are taking part this year in Wales, covering a total of 140 Food & Fun Schemes – that’s reaching out to 8000 pupils!
Merthyr Tydfil school meals staff and school staff are also giving up a chunk of their summer break to help run the project from 22nd July to 6th August.
This year, the Mayor of Merthyr Tydfil, Councillor Malcolm Colbran, attended sessions at Goetre and St Aloysius Schools, taking part in some of the activities and even enjoying a spot of lunch with the children at St Aloysius Primary School. He said, “I was delighted to go along to the schools this week to see the School Holiday Enrichment Programme in action. The activities and food were fantastic and it was wonderful to see the children thoroughly enjoying themselves!”
Councillor Ian Roberts (Flintshire), WLGA Spokesperson for Education said: “Provided by councils and supported by Welsh Government funding, the Food and Fun programme is a brilliant way to support young people and their families by providing opportunities to socialise, learn and enjoy delicious nutritious meals. The programme continues to go from strength to strength, and will this year reach more young people than ever before right across Wales.”