Children enjoying a picnic lunch in the woods in Sandy Image Central Bedfordshire Council

Pilot project aims to keep kids healthy and active this summer

Central Bedfordshire Council‘s (CBC) new pilot project hopes to improve the health and wellbeing of children (4-12) and their families. It is expecting to distribute at least 1,250 meals a week over the school summer holidays.

The Holiday Picnic pilot is a joint initiative between the Council’s Public Health and Children’s Services and Team Beds & Luton (Bedfordshire’s Active Partnership). It was created in response to some of the pressures resulting from COVID-19 and to improve access to healthy affordable food.

CBC said that by engaging with families the scheme will improve the health and readiness to restart school in September of over 500 children and their siblings. As well as encouraging families to spend more positive time together.

Cllr Sue Clark, Cranfield and Marston Moretaine ward councillor and executive member for Families, Education and Children, said:

“We’re pleased to be providing healthy picnic lunches for families in areas of need.

“Though the school holidays have only just begun, the link between good health, wellbeing and learning is well-known, so by maintaining this over the summer we aim to help prepare children to restart school in September, concentrate in class and get the best out of their education.

“But in the meantime, we believe that this initiative can also help families spend more positive time together, strengthen their relationships, reduce isolation and, most importantly, enjoy themselves.”

The Council worked with schools to identify the families that, once a week, will be able to collect from the Council’s Children’s Centres a healthy pre-prepared picnic lunch with food for the entire family.

The Holiday Picnic pilot aims to supplement the government’s decision to offer supermarket vouchers over the summer to children eligible for free school meals.

Research has shown that the decrease in structured activity over the summer holidays, compared with term time, can negatively affect children’s learning and attainment.

Families will also receive an age appropriate activity pack, to promote exercise, physical activity and use of Central Bedfordshire’s parks and outdoor spaces.

Central Bedfordshire Council’s Children’s Centres that will distribute the picnic lunches are:

  • Biggleswade and Sandy
  • Dunstable (North and South)
  • Flitwick
  • Houghton Regis (Tithe Farm and Parkside)
  • Leighton Buzzard
  • Shefford and Stotfold

Cranfield comes under the Flitwick and District Children’s Centre. As there isn’t a regular public transport service between Cranfield and Flitwick, CBC was asked what assistance would be available should a Cranfield family in need wish to collect a picnic lunch. A CBC spokesperson said:

“This is a pilot project limited to a small number of schools across Central Bedfordshire.

“Families in Cranfield can continue to seek support from the Flitwick Children’s Centre, including access to telephone support, virtual groups and support with specific items for families in need.”

Cllr Tracy Stock, executive member for Public Health, said:

“The COVID-19 national health emergency has presented challenges for many families, including access to healthy food options and ways to keep active.

“So, we’re delighted to rollout this pilot Holiday Picnic initiative as a way to alleviate these pressures, particularly around food and healthy eating.”