Businesses helping provide a Healthy Summer for local children

An exciting new partnership between local communities, government and businesses is providing a healthier summer for local children in Northern Ireland.

Healthy Summer is a pilot approach supported by the Urban Villages Initiative (The Executive Office) and Business in the Community Northern Ireland (BITCNI). It is helping community groups in the five Urban Villages areas spanning Belfast and Derry~Londonderry to support families that would mostly access free school meals during term time.

When families, without the support of free school meals don’t have access to sufficient food during the summer months, it results in poor nutrition and learning loss in children. Community representatives across Urban Village areas highlighted it as a major challenge facing some families. This, along with wider financial strains, has seen increased use of food banks.

Summer schemes, community events and festivals already taking place over July and August across the Urban Village areas provide creative approaches to community engagement. They provide a platform for local groups to target and include those people most in need and those families struggling to provide healthy and nutritious meals during holiday periods.

Twelve companies in Northern Ireland, all members of BITCNI, have made donations totalling £28,000. This significant amount was matched with £30,000 from the Urban Villages Initiative and will be used to provide 30,000 meals through a diverse range of community-based initiatives in Belfast and Derry~Londonderry.

Companies supporting the programme include: Allstate Northern Ireland, Arthur Cox, Belfast Harbour, Coca-Cola HBC Ireland & Northern Ireland, DuPont, George Best Belfast City Airport, Henry Brothers, Learning Pool, Portview Fit-Out, PwC, SHS Group and Spar.

Local companies also visited the Gasyard Development Trust in Derry~Londonderry

Deputy Permanent Secretary at the Executive Office, Mark Browne said “The idea of a Healthy Summer programme emerged from groups in Urban Village areas and was developed in partnership with the Urban Villages Initiative and Business in the Community. The programme enables community groups to work together to provide nutritional support as part of activities for children and family members of all ages to improve wellbeing, meet new people, learn new skills and have fun.

“The Healthy Summer programme has provided over 30,000 meals to families living in Urban Village areas who rely on free school meals during term time, and may struggle to provide healthy and nutritious meals during holiday periods. I would like to thank our partners Business in the Community, the local businesses who supported the programme and the local community organisations who have worked together to deliver the programme.”

John Healy, Managing Director and Vice President, Allstate Northern Ireland added: “Allstate is delighted to be among the twelve companies supporting this initiative. Business has a key role to play in supporting the learning and development of our children and young people, who are our future workforce. The Healthy Summer initiative has provided a great opportunity for business and government to work together to support local communities and I look forward to building on this programme and doing more to help address key social issues.”

Key learning from the Healthy Summer pilot will be shared at a regional stakeholder event in Autumn.