Families on low incomes in North Yorkshire will receive support this Easter in the form of food vouchers and holiday activity packs for children.

The Covid Winter Grant Scheme will provide food voucher payments to ensure parents and carers on low incomes - or who are struggling financially due to the pandemic - can continue to provide the essentials. The vouchers, worth £15 per child per week plus an additional one-off voucher of up to £20, will help meet the increased cost of food and other household bills for families during the school holidays.

The supermarket vouchers were first distributed to struggling families in North Yorkshire over the Christmas and February half-term holidays, which saw 34,000 vouchers distributed to parents and carers at schools, academies, early years settings and post-16 colleges. The County Council also provided vouchers to care leavers.

The local authority is also launching North Yorkshire FEAST – a holiday activities and food programme – over the Easter holidays. Run in conjunction with North Yorkshire Youth, North Yorkshire Sport and Rural Arts. Due to covid-restrictions, the programme will initially provide a targeted offer of activity packs over the Easter holiday but the local authority is hopeful that some face-to-face activities will be able to run during the summer holidays.

There are two versions of the packs; one for primary-aged children and another for secondary school age. Both contain items for fun and healthy activities, including age-appropriate packs of stationery for creative projects, as well as skipping ropes, playground chalks, bean bags and a tennis ball. They also contain an activity booklet, including recipes for affordable, healthy meals which families can make together.

The packs are funded from the Department for Education’s Holiday Activities and Food programme in response to the increased pressure school holidays can bring to many families due to the increased cost of food and childcare for families.

It is designed to ensure children have an opportunity to take part in activities which support their physical health, including sports and games and have access to healthy food.

Cllr Patrick Mulligan, Member for Education and Skills said: “Distributing the supermarket vouchers and activity packs has been a true team effort.

“We are enormously grateful to our schools, colleges and nurseries for their continued help in distributing food vouchers to children in receipt of Free School Meals and other families who may have found themselves newly struggling as a result of the pandemic.

“We have heard from schools how the vouchers have helped families to balance their budgets and make independent choices, especially where their regular income or business has been severely impacted by the pandemic, or they have not been able to work.”

“The County Council has also been working with three North Yorkshire charities who have helped create the activity packs and distribute them to local schools. We’re also hugely grateful to them for their support.”

North Yorkshire County Council has been working with North Yorkshire Sport, North Yorkshire Youth and Rural Arts in delivering the activity packs.

The charities have helped put together more than 11,000 packs for children and deliver them to all corners of the county. They will also be delivering healthy food and activity programmes throughout the rest of the year’s school holidays. Further details will be released later in the year.

Richard Linsley, Headteacher of Alverton Community Primary School in Northallerton said: “We know the food vouchers have really helped families balance their budgets over the holidays during the difficult times brought about by the pandemic. So we’re delighted to be able to offer the vouchers again.

“The children will be delighted with their activity packs. The ideas for activities will be really useful over this lockdown holiday and they contain plenty of resources to keep children active and engaged.”

All families across North Yorkshire can access the school holiday activity ideas online.