It’s an inspiring scene of happiness and vitality, with hordes of young boys and girls buzzing around, laughing and enjoying games of football, cricket and rounders on a summer’s day.
But the youngsters taking part in the StreetGames holiday club, situated less than three miles from the Scottish Parliament, are also looking forward to the free lunch provided because their parents are often struggling to feed them during the school holidays when breakfast clubs and free school lunches stop at the end of term.
This is the first time the sports charity running the club in one of Edinburgh’s most deprived areas has given out lunches as part of its Fit and Fed campaign, aimed at battling “holiday hunger”.
Around 30 children from local primary schools attend the club at Edinburgh Leisure’s Jack Kane Community Sports Hub in Niddrie in the east of the city, taking part in a wide variety of activities under the supervision of trained sports coaches before sitting down together at a table for lunch and a chat.
Earlier this month Bruce Adamson, Scotland’s Commissioner for Children and Young People, said children going hungry in the school holidays is a “significant human rights issue for Scotland”.
Lenka Jonasova, whose six-year-old son Jamie Acheampong attends the project, has been volunteering helping with the lunches offering choices such as wraps with cooked meats and chicken, chopped vegetables, salads and a range of fresh fruit such as strawberries and blueberries as well as sandwiches and couscous.
“I do believe there are parents struggling during the holidays. But the club is good for the children in so many other ways.
“They learn about how to work in a team and about taking responsibility and have good role models with the sports coaches.”
Ian Crawford, Scotland manager of StreetGames, said: “We’re giving free lunches because we saw some children going hungry. But as well as fighting holiday hunger, the project helps stop the isolation and inactivity for those from low-income families during the school holidays.”
Alex Rowley, Scottish Labour deputy leader, cited measures to tackle the “national disgrace” of hungry children. “Labour would use Holyrood’s powers to tackle the scandal of ‘holiday hunger’ by increasing child benefit to lift thousands of youngsters out of poverty, and with a UK Labour government we would introduce a twice a year ‘seasonal grant’ for the poorest families in Scotland to support them during school holidays.”
A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “Local authorities have the flexibility to provide meals outwith term time and some chose to use this flexibility during school holidays by providing holiday lunch clubs.
“In addition, we have already invested over £350 million in welfare mitigation measures, in addition to our £1m Fair Food Fund which supports projects promoting dignity and harnessing the social potential of food to connect people and develop sustainable solutions to food poverty.”