Summer lunch club initiative helps tackle health and poverty issues during holidays

By Press Office

A student from Queen Margaret University (QMU) dedicated his holidays to providing healthy nutritious meals to primary school children in East Lothian over the summer break.

Iain Scott, worked with local family worker and QMU graduate Natalie Moir to provide a holiday lunch club which operated at Prestonpans Infant School during the July and August holidays. The club was established to ensure that young children had access to balanced nutritional meals, and were also provided with extra learning enrichment opportunities over the summer months.

Iain Scott became increasingly aware of the issues surrounding some families and food poverty during his earlier role with the NHS when he promoted healthy eating within schools. Around that time, other individuals also started to consider the effect of food poverty, including the dramatic impact of malnutrition on a children’s attainment at school. Iain’s concern was further heightened after reading research on the topic, including a key report from Barnardos in 2014 which investigated the issue of poverty during the school holidays.

Iain, a father of four young children, is studying for a BSc (Hons) Dietetics at QMU. As a single parent, now remarried, Iain has had first hand experience of the difficulties associated with poverty, having gone for periods of time without food in order to provide for his family.

He said: “Financial poverty can be like the tide, flowing in and out of people lives, at times causing severe damage to all it touches. One of the biggest casualties of financial poverty includes the ability of families to provide nutritious healthy meals for themselves and their children.”

He continued: “The Barnardos report identified that the financial pressures faced by parents were at their most extreme in the school holidays. This was due to the fact that families had to find extra money to pay for food during the school holidays because of the absence of free school meals. This markedly increases food poverty during the school holiday period and results in intense financial pressure. Ultimately, there is a higher risk of malnutrition which has an impact on a child’s attainment in school. The report confirmed that there was a need for a project which supported families dealing with these issues.

Iain, is committee member of ‘Support for the Start’, an organisation which improves the lives of children from birth to the age of eight. He worked with the Prestonpans committee to secure funding for a pilot lunch club project in 2016. The success of the pilot scheme resulted in further financial support for an extended set of holiday lunch clubs during summer 2017. ‘The Wee Pans Lunch Club’ became a fixture in the summer holiday calendar for 42 children, providing them with a reliable source of lunch throughout the summer break.

Iain confirmed: “The lunch club has inspired young people to adopt a healthy diet and lifestyle by encouraging them to try different foods, introducing them to new tastes, educating them about nutrition, and getting them interested and involved in the cooking process.”

The club, which was supported by the Preston Seton Gosford Area Partnership, has also provided children with additional learning and social opportunities. Children, parents, and staff were able to spend time and build relationships with others that they would be unlikely to encounter at any other time. An added benefit of the initiatives was observed by staff, who felt that the holiday clubs helped break down perceived barriers to parents engaging with school and community interventions.

Iain confirmed: “We know that ‘The Wee Pans Lunch Club’ initiative has been a life saver for some of Prestonpans young families. The children really enjoyed coming together and having proper meals in a fun social environment. They also liked getting involved in food preparation and trying new things. It’s been a great success and the parents are pleased that the children were gaining both nutritionally and socially, and also had structure to their days during the holiday period.”

One parent, whose child participated in the lunch club, said: “Lunch club has been invaluable. My son has enjoyed everything and has tried foods that he never would have at home. He now drinks goat’s milk regularly.  He has been very sociable and has met a new friend.”

Other parents found that the lunch club relieved the financial strain associated with summer holidays and referenced the social benefits, saying: “Kids have enjoyed the interactions of other children from school that they may not been able to see during the holidays.  It’s reduced the stress of feeding and entertaining the kids every day of holidays.”

Iain continued: “Of course, these initiatives are only successful if they are well supported and we are indebted to our dedicated band of volunteers who supported the project by providing the meal provision and interacting with the children. Importantly, we have had the full support of the staff at Prestonpans Infant School, who gave up much of their holidays to help with the club and look after the children who took part.”

Iain said: “Although the idea behind the holiday lunch club was to tackle food insecurities, the project was about so much more than just food. Learning about healthy eating, skills development, social inclusion, identification of children and young people in need and development of staff are just some of the additional benefits which came out of this initiative.  However, the long term success of this lunch club project, and that of others within the county, require sustainable funding and support from East Lothian Council. The initiative fits perfectly with the Council’s commitment to tackling food poverty and the improvement in children’s welfare and educational attainment.”

Iain’s efforts in his local community, and his dedicated support of Queen Margaret University’s student learning initiatives, were recognised recently at the Herald Higher Education Awards.  He won the ‘Outstanding Contribution from a Student’ award with the judges singling him out for his ability to inspire and motivate others.

Professor Fiona Coutts, Dean of Health Sciences at Queen Margaret University, said: “Iain is an inspiration to both students and staff across QMU. He epitomises the University’s philosophy of serving the community and striving for social justice. We are proud and delighted that he is using the knowledge and connections he has gained at QMU to make a positive impact on the health and wellbeing of children and families in East Lothian.

 “We wish him every success in gaining further financial support to roll out the lunch club initiative to more children across the county.”




Notes to Editor

Iain recently discussed his experiences and thoughts on food poverty with East Lothian Council’s poverty commission, as well as with teachers and school support staff across the county.

For further media information contact Lynne Russell, Communications Manager at Queen Margaret University on E: , T: 0131 474 0000, M: 07711 011239.

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