Struggling Welsh families battling to cope with food price inflation in double figures are being given a helping hand by a big-hearted food distributor.
Harlech Foodservice are working with councils across North Wales to supply tasty and nutritious meals and snacks plus store cupboard essentials to take home.
It’s part of a Welsh Government scheme which sees pupils from Anglesety, Denbighshire, Flintshire and Wrexham enjoy 12 days of activities at their schools in the first three weeks of the summer holidays.
As part of that scheme children at participating schools receive free breakfast and lunch which bookend a morning of fun overseen by volunteer members of staff.
Key Account Manager David Roberts and other Harlech volunteers have helped school staff pack the bags of food and he said: “It’s gone down very well with the schools – they love it.
“It’s not just a question of delivering supplies, we also have to look at the nutritional value of what we provide because this is about healthy eating and at the same time keeping the children interested in what they’re eating.
“It’s no good providing nutritious food that they don’t like because they just won’t eat it so we have to make sure it is tasty as well because much of what we do now with schools and healthcare is about environmental and social benefit.
“This is funded by Welsh Government so we have to ensure that we’re seen to be giving back something to the communities where we operate whether it’s providing meals for schools or for the NHS in Wales.
“That’s a big consideration for us and it’s the right thing to do and at the same time we want to give them nutritious food they want to eat and wherever possible we source that food as locally possible so that the money spent stays in Wales.”
Hayley Jones, Principal Catering and Cleaning Manager for Denbighshire, said: “We have six schools in Denbighshire taking part in the summer Food and Fun programme which provide 12 days of activities, crafts, sport, food and nutrition.
“We have done Food and Fun for the past eight years here in Denbighshire but for the first time at the end of the 12 days each pupil, drawn from primary and secondary schools in St Asaph, Rhyl and Prestatyn, receives a bag of food to take home.
“Food and Fun is open to all pupils and they really seem to be enjoying it and at the end they take home a goody bag including breakfast cereals, pasta, biscuits, baked beans, tinned tomatoes, mayonnaise, stock cubes and the kind of things that can be made into nutritious meals.”
Helen Jones, of Wrexham Council’s Healthy Schools campaign, said: “The scheme runs from Monday to Thursday for the first three weeks of the summer holidays and we have six primary schools taking part with teachers dedicating their free time to supervise.
“It is something we have done in Wrexham since 2016 and we were one of the first local authorities in be involved and this year we have received additional funding for Bags Bwyd.
“This means at the end of the 12 days of activities we are able to send the pupils home with a bag of everyday essentials to help families cope during the current cost of living crisis.
“We have worked with the team at Harlech Foodservice to work out what’s available to provide store cupboard staples to take home as well as providing healthy lunches and breakfasts and on Thursdays the parents are invited into the school to enjoy a heathy, nutritious and tasty meal with the children.”
Flintshire has 13 schools and over 500 children taking part in the fifth year of their Food and Fun programme which is co-ordinated by Newydd, the catering and cleaning arm of Flintshire County Council.
Newydd Business Operations Manager Rob Lawton said: “It is the biggest it’s ever been, involving more schools and more pupils than ever before.
“For the 12 days of the programme the pupils have breakfast, a mid-morning snack and a lunch and on Thursdays parents are invited to join them and last week we had over 200.
“The numbers are fantastic with 40 pupils per school and we have two of the special schools in the county involved this year.
“It’s all about education in a fun way so it’s not just a playscheme. There’s a proper structure to it and at the heart of that is nutritious and tasty meals and we’ve had really positive feedback about how much the kids have enjoyed the meals.
“They are supplied by Harlech Foodservice along with a food bag and a recipe book which they take home at the end of the course and we’re really delighted with how well it has worked.”
Harlech Foodservice Director of Healthcare and Education Mark Lawton said: “It has proved really popular with the schools and we’re working with Denbighshire, Wrexham, Flintshire on Food and Fun and with Anglesey as well for the first time and we have a separate scheme running with Conwy Council.
“We don’t just drop the consignments at the school gates either, we bring it in and we help pack the bags too.
“We have also co-ordinated the orders, working with the councils to put the list of products together. It wasn’t just a shopping list for us, we worked on what the bags should contain.
“This summer there will be 600 bags going out in Denbighshire alone and there has been excellent take-up across all four counties with over 2,000 pupils involved and enjoying healthy and tasty food as part of their programme of activities.”
Harlech Foodservices has bases at Criccieth, in Gwynedd, Chester and Merthyr Tydfil and between the three locations, the company employs around 200 staff and runs a fleet of vehicles to deliver up to 5,000 product lines to cafés, restaurants, pubs and public sector customers across Wales, Shropshire, the Midlands and the North West.