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Scheme supports young people with healthy food and free activities

More than 600 children and young people from across Exeter have benefited from free activities and a daily hot meal during the school holidays, thanks to a scheme delivered by Exeter City Community Trust.

The Holiday Activities and Food programme (HAF), which is delivered in partnership with Devon County Council’s Early Years and Childcare Service, provides exercise, healthy food and enriching activities during the school holidays. The programme offers valuable support to children on benefit-related free school meals and their families across Devon.

This is the third year that Exeter City Community Trust, which is the partner charity of Exeter City Football Club, has delivered the HAF programme. Over that period it has helped 600 children and their families. This summer, to ensure the young people received the most nutritious meals possible, the charity collaborated with Exeter College’s catering department who cooked a hot, healthy meal for the participants every day.

Jamie Vittles, chief executive of Exeter City Community Trust, says: “This is our third year of supporting young people and their families through the HAF programme. This summer it was excellent to work with Exeter College who have provided meals of the highest quality for our participants. When you deliver a HAF programme there is a minimum standard required for the meals, and we exceeded this by far thanks to our collaboration with the college.

“Special thanks to Matthew Pickett, Stuart Fowles and Tracey Bennett from the college, who have given amazing assistance. Matthew and Stuart spent their summer holiday cooking and delivering the food and have been unbelievable in their support of the HAF programme. They are clearly passionate about helping young people in this way.”

Through the HAF programme, primary age children take part in activities at Willowbrook Primary School, including crafts, healthy eating workshops and drama sessions; the older children experience a host of engaging activities thanks to support from Haven Banks Outdoor Education Centre and the Devon Wildlife Trust. In addition to this, the young people have been supported with advice from nutritional therapist Donna Reynolds and taken part in fun personal training sessions at CrossFit Exe.

This is also the first year where funding from the Department for Education has enabled Exeter City Community Trust to expand delivery of the HAF programme to North Devon, where young people have enjoyed a range of activities including archery, longboarding and surfing.

Jamie adds: “It has been great to expand our offering to North Devon this year. We know that many families are struggling to make ends meet and the school holidays bring extra financial pressure. So, to be able to provide activities and nutritious meals, thanks to our partnerships with Devon County Council’s Early Years and Childcare Service and Exeter College, goes some way to helping those families and easing the pressure on them.”

Adam Williams, HAF programme manager for Exeter City Community Trust, says: “I believe that HAF plays an important part in these young people’s lives. They not only get to try new, fun activities and eat amazing wholesome food, but are also supported in engaging with their community in ways they may otherwise not get to do. I am extremely proud of the programme we deliver here at ECCT; the growth and confidence I have seen in the young people over the past few years is incredible.”

Photo credit: Daniel Ridgeway, ECCT.