A pioneering Fife project to address holiday hunger among young people and their families is set to continue next year.
After a pilot over the Easter holidays in the Cowdenbeath area, Café Inc was rolled out to venues across the region for the summer and October breaks, offering children and families free hot lunches and packed lunches in schools and community centres – as well as activities helping to tackle social isolation.
It has now emerged that 125,102 meals have been provided as part of the initiative in 2019 so far, and councillors in Fife are now keen to build on that platform.
Members of Fife’s community and housing services committee have not only heard that the project is expected to come within the £400,000 budget set aside for Café Inc, but they have recommended in principle the groundbreaking scheme should continue into the future.
A dedicated post to manage holiday provision across Fife is also expected to be created, albeit initially be on a temporary basis.
Garry Daniell, community development team manager, admitted it had been a “challenging” year so far but he has been delighted with how things have gone.
“Catering, education and communities have some together extremely well and there’s been great collaboration between them,” he said.
Mr Daniell said despite “significant operational challenges” around staffing and availability, there will be some form of Café Inc provision over the Christmas holidays between December 23 and January 3.
It is hoped Café Inc sessions on a Monday and Tuesday, although details are yet to finalised.
Participating schools were chosen using deprivation data and where more than 40% of students were entitled to free meals, prompting SNP councillor Fiona Grant to question how officials were quantifying people not accessing Café Inc.
“Yes, we can count everybody who came through the door but this is about getting some kind of handle on the people we didn’t reach,” she said.
Mr Daniell agreed, adding it will be “crucial” to expand provision to as wide an age group as possible.
Conservative Kirkcaldy councillor Richard Watt also questioned whether the right people were being targeted, saying he had seen an advert during the Burntisland Links funfair urging people who had “spent all their money” at the fair to “come and get a free meal”.
“I thought that was slightly tasteless,” he added.
However, Mr Daniell said he didn’t know about that issue, adding he “wouldn’t condone it, wouldn’t support it” in any shape or form.
“Part of the deal with Café Inc is there is no check or balance at the door, because it reduces stigma,” he said.
“We don’t do these kind of checks, we focus on the meals provided.”
Cowdenbeath Labour councillor Linda Erskine suggested considering renewing funds for holiday provision in February’s budget, which was unanimously agreed.
“I know how hard the staff have worked to deliver this and they have been absolutely magnificent,” she said.
“It’s delivered on a shoestring in terms of human resources, but the staff go the extra mile.”