Summer programme offers free school meal kids the chance to learn an instrument and be fed

The Carnegie Theatre in Workington has put on free session for sessions FSM children which gives them the opportunity learn an instrument for the first and also to be fed. Credit: ITV News Border

A theatre in Cumbria has been running a summer programme which offers meals to children eligible for free school meals (FSM).

The Carnegie Theatre in Workington has put on the free sessions for FSM children, giving them the opportunity learn an instrument and also a healthy hot meal during the holidays.

This project is funded by a government programme.

  • Video report by Ciaran Fitzpatrick.

Michael Nutter Hospitality Manager at the Carnegie Theatre said: "So the summer school is obviously funded through the Holiday activity and food programme fund.

"They've supported us here. Obviously, giving free food to those that are taking part, that are on free school meals, it's absolutely essential.

"It's all about helping the community and helping those who are struggling at a time where bills and things like that are at their most highest."

Figures from charity End Child Poverty show 3.6 million children live in poverty in the UK - that is eight children in every class of 30.

Analysis from Resolution Foundation projects a further half a million will fall into poverty by April 2023.

1.7 million children in England eligible for free school meals are supported through projects like here at the Carnegie Theatre. 

Steve Hunter-Brown who is a music tutor on the programme said: "We've been doing two or three hours of music in the morning.

"I really need to have the social side of it as well, sit around, have a chat, and a lot of them make new friends.

"One parent said to me this morning, 'my daughter came home last night and said, I've met five new friends'. That's really important, I think."

At the North Lakes food bank in Lillyhall, they create food packages for youngsters who would normally receive free school meals. 

Up to 4,000 bags are handed to families in West Cumbria throughout the six week holidays.

They provide five lunches a week, to make up for what they would be having at school, for two children. 

Some of these parcels are given out by volunteers in Workington too. 

They say they have seen an increase in use from families this Summer holidays. 

Fiona Renouf who is a volunteer for the North Lakes food bank said: "I'm concerned for the people involved, obviously, and to know how we can best support them when they come in and obviously we can still give them the same support as we always have done.

"But I think their anxiety level is maybe higher. So we just have to think how we could best support them emotionally as well.

"The summer packs, we just decide ourselves what's going to be attractive for children. Because obviously what an adult wants to eat, what teenager wants to eat are not necessarily the same.

"So we try to be innovative in terms of what we put in those packs so that it's appealing for the children and also get feedback from the parents when they come in and say, How'd it go last week? Do you enjoy what you got? So that's helpful as well."

In Penrith, the Salvation Army offer three free meals a week for children to tackle pressures during school holidays. 

Volunteers here say tackling the issue of holiday hunger is even more important as food prices rise during the cost of living crisis. 

Diana from salvation army said: "The number of parents who come through our doors asking for a helping hand during the summer holidays.

"There is no no support for meals for that. So parents do struggle to provide for their families, the kids, especially large families. So it is quite an important thing. Very important."

Sessions across the region like these have been a lifeline for families and children throughout the summer. 

With school holidays coming to an end, charities across the region hope a return to a guaranteed free school meal will help ease the pressure on families. 

Listen to our latest podcasts to find out What You Need To know...