Holiday Activities and Food in Hampshire – Christmas cheer for low-income families

While most families anticipate a Christmas filled with socialising, treats and presents, for some on low incomes, the winter season and school holidays can put a strain on already tight household budgets

Nov 20 2023

Providing hot meals and keeping these children warm, safe and engaged while school is out, the Holiday Activities and Food programme (HAF), is funded by the Department for Education and is administered by local authorities.

As part of the County Council’s connect4communities programme, this Christmas, 134 sites across Hampshire will be running HAF schemes, offering free enriching activities and wholesome food each day for those receiving free school meals during term time and other vulnerable school-age children. As well as enjoying hot nutritious meals, children are encouraged to be active by participating in sports and spending time outdoors, and to try their hand at a range of activities such as arts and crafts, cooking, games and free play.  

Among those delivering schemes as part of Holiday Activities and Food programme are schools, childcare providers, community groups and sports activity providers. Parents and carers wishing to find out what is on offer in their area should search the Family Information and Services Hub and contact their local providers directly to sign up to schemes. 

Councillor Edward Heron, the County Council’s Executive Lead Member for Children’s Services, said: 

“For the third year running, we are offering a comprehensive HAF programme over Christmas and while this year the rising cost of food has been a real challenge for our providers, we realise that these costs are hitting families even harder, with many families already extremely stretched financially. 

“The winter period – and particularly the festive season – is likely to add further strain to those challenges, especially for Hampshire’s most vulnerable families. With partnership working, support from supermarkets and other businesses, and by working with other Hampshire County Council services such as Bikeability and Hampshire Libraries, we have been able to maximise the impact of our funds to create over 12,000 HAF places for eligible children this Christmas.

“I urge eligible families to sign up to HAF schemes this Christmas as they are always popular, and demand unfortunately outstrips supply in many areas.”

Councillor Heron added: 

“The County Council’s connect4communities programme adopts an inclusive, family-wide approach, raising awareness of the cost-of-living support available, and specifically how to keep homes warm over winter. For the first time this year, we are planning dedicated events around the county to showcase the many ways that households can benefit from the grants available including the Household Support Fund, Warm Spaces and Hitting the Cold Spots – watch out for announcements of events near you.”

The upcoming Christmas itinerary follows a successful summer programme, which saw almost £2 million awarded to HAF providers and 9,777 individual children accessing schemes across the county.