Brighton and Hove holiday club charity feeds young minds

Twenty-seven children were given book vouchers at a school holiday project run by a Brighton and Hove charity.

Council leader Nancy Platts with Belen Lorca and her daughter Victoria at Chomp at Benfield Primary School in Portslade

Chomp, which runs free holiday clubs providing lunch and play for school-age children, was given the vouchers to hand out at Benfield School, Portslade, by Meals and More.

The award comes weeks after Brighton and Hove City Council called on the government to take action to deal with food poverty and school holiday hunger.

Council leader Nancy Platts went along to Chomp as part of a series of visits to community groups to encourage people to get involved.

Councillor Platts said: “It reduces isolation and there’s really nice food. Getting people some company and for the kids to have someone to play with is really important in the holidays.

“The serious side is making sure everyone gets fed, making sure there’s no holiday hunger.

“This should not be a problem in this day and age. We shouldn’t be having to worry about feeding people during the school holidays or otherwise they go without.

“This project is a really nice way of getting people fed without stigma attached because everyone is coming here to play.”

Mum of two Belen Lorca has come along to the Benfield Chomp since last summer as a way to help her children and herself make friends as well as save money.

Story time proved popular with her two-year-old daughter Victoria who, along with four-year-old Ignatius, played a game with Councillor Platts.

Ms Lorca said: “A volunteer was reading for the kids and they like it.

“I like to take the children to the library. We like to go to anything with story time.”

Councillor Nancy Platts reads to children in “book corner” at Chomp at Benfield Primary School in Portslade

Going to Chomp enables her family to mix more than going to the library – as well as saving money on holiday lunch.

She said: “It helps a lot. These are one or two days I don’t have to make their lunch.

“We can have two hours to catch up with friends and make new friends.

“It’s great to do fine motor skills with my daughter. My son did not go to nursery so it was great to come here before he went to school.

“The social part is very important as well.”

The charity Meals and More presented Chomp with 27 book vouchers worth £10 each – one for each child at the February holiday club.

Kevin Coles, a trustee of Meals and More, which supports hundreds of similar schemes nationally, provides 200,000 meals for children across the country.

Vanessa O’Shea and Kevin Coles at Chomp at Benfield Primary School in Portslade

He was also at the half-term holiday club and said: “We realise there is an issue with holiday hunger and it’s easy to solve. Chomp is getting people here.

“I’m please they won the literacy prize as it is encouraging people into soft educational work in the holidays, where it’s not like school but learning in an interesting way.”

Mr Coles said that holiday hunger is a growing problem nationally since Meals and More started in 2015, as well as parents experiencing social isolation, feeling alone, in the school holidays.

Chomp lead Vanessa O’Shea said that the book corner was part of the support that Chomp offered to low-income families.

She said: “We intentionally created a reading corner and at 11.30 always sit down and read. It’s the most popular one. We run it in other venues, but it seems to be the most popular here and the kids enjoy it.

“For me, running Chomp is about supporting kids on low incomes. Plus any additional support we can give is important.

“Having book corners gives kids the opportunity to read and have time out with their parents and reduce screen time.”

Chomp operates during the school holidays in Coldean, Benfield, Bevendean, One Church in the centre of Brighton, Fabrica Art Gallery, Hove, Moulsecoomb, West Blatchington and Whitehawk.

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