THOUSANDS of vulnerable children across South Ayrshire are benefitting from free meals over the school holidays, thanks to a £10,000 donation from an innovative community fund.
The Holiday Meals provision has been delivered across four key areas of South Ayrshire which have suffered from high levels of child poverty since 2017 – covering North Ayr, Girvan, Maybole and Barassie.
The donation from the Scottish Procurement Alliance (SPA)’s Community Benefit Fund has supported South Ayrshire Council in its partnership with the Community Learning and Development and Active Schools and Community Engagement Teams to deliver the project, working with local groups to cover the four communities.
Over the October midterm break, the programme delivered 1,852 meals to children. Last year, it delivered 20,603 school meals in total to children over the Easter, summer, midterm and Christmas holidays.
Councillor William Grant, Children and Young People Portfolio Holder for South Ayrshire Council, said:
“It’s immeasurable to us just how much the funding from the Scottish Procurement Alliance has helped.
“We’ve had to do it slightly differently this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. As the Scottish Government extended the national school meals programme for the other holidays, we delivered boxes of food to families instead, resuming our holiday meals programme for the October break.
“South Ayrshire Council has received funding from SPA and Lintel Trust for a number of years – which is quite an unusual situation as they don’t tend to refund projects, but they think what we’re doing in South Ayrshire is really positive.
“As a result of the continued funding and support, we’ve been able to expand our operations and change how we do things on a yearly basis. We’ve also received funding from the South Ayrshire Charitable Trust which has helped supplement our programmes.
“We get a lot of really nice feedback from children and their parents, so we know the programme is making a big difference in our communities.”
The lunches are nutritionally balanced, consisting of rolls, a bottle of juice or water, healthy snacks and a piece of fruit. While the programme normally delivers free school meals to children, during the COVID-19 pandemic this summer, families who were entitled to free school meals were delivered a box of food weekly.
Over the October midterm break, the programme organised outdoor holiday clubs where children could come along to socialise as well as receiving their meals.
Prior to the pandemic, the programme would deliver meals to a variety of sports and recreational clubs across the communities. The Holiday Meals provision also has a renovated bus complete with an air hockey table and computer games, which travels around the areas and serves meals to children who can also take time to play games and socialise.
As a not-for-profit organisation, any surplus generated by SPA – which partners with public sector bodies to fulfil construction, refurbishment and maintenance contracts – is re-distributed into SPA’s Community Benefit Fund and Rebate. SPA’s 14-strong Executive Board members (made up of local authorities and registered social landlords) are eligible to apply for a portion of the fund each year to use for projects in their local community.
SPA works alongside Lintel Trust who manage the fund ensuring projects and causes support local needs and communities.
Overall, the Community Benefit Fund has handed out grants totalling nearly £500,000 over the last three years and has helped to generate nearly £375,000 in match funding, meaning it has helped to give Scottish communities a near £1m boost.
In its last financial year (2019-20), £130,000 was distributed to 15 projects across Scotland which benefitted nearly 19,000 people directly – with another £94,000 being achieved in match funding.
SPA Director, Clive Feeney, said:
“The Fund is all about making an impact in our Partner’s local area, to provide opportunity and prosperity to communities which would not otherwise have the means to fund their ambitions.
“The Holiday Meals initiative is precisely the type of project we encourage with our Fund. This year we have been particularly focused on directing the Fund to support projects that bring benefits to people whose lives have been turned upside down because of COVID-19.
“The fact that thousands of meals have been delivered in South Ayrshire, allied to our work elsewhere with Social Bite who were able to provide vital food parcels to families, is a superb testament to the success of this new approach for the Fund.”
Projects undertaken through SPA totalled £237.8million in 2019-20 – up nearly 50% on the previous year. SPA also achieved a milestone in the last year by signing up its 100th registered partner.
SPA, which operates from a head office in Livingston, has a team of dedicated experts who are firmly focused on championing best practice and ensuring partners can benefit from access to specialist procurement solutions that deliver social value in its communities.