Reggae Reggae Sauce entrepreneur Levi Roots and local MP Helen Hayes (Labour, Dulwich and West Norwood) were on hand today to help Brixton’s St. Matthews Project launch a national food and fitness programme through its Easter football tournament.
Levi Roots grew in the Tulse Hill Estate across the road from Brockwell Park where today’s launch took place. He took the time to talk to each of the groups training in the park, telling them to keep their focus and, above all, to be themselves.
The St. Matthews Project, which has been running for 12 years, offers activities, development opportunities and support to young people on and off the pitch. It has been organising food and activity sessions for the past couple of years.
The charity StreetGames is helping other projects to follow St Matthew’s example with its national programme Fit and Fed. This will knit together existing projects – like the St Matthews’ one – all over the country.
It will tackle holiday hunger, isolation and inactivity by providing free holiday activity sessions with food.
The campaign said that the poorest families are hit hard in the school holidays, when their food bill can increase by £30 or £40.
Wherever possible, Fit and Fed will use surplus food to provide meals.
StreetGames plans to use the Fit and Fed programme as an umbrella body for organisations like the St Matthews Project to help to them raise fund and to provide training in handling food and other areas for local volunteers.
The programme is due to launch in time for the summer holidays in July this year, helping 7,500 children in 250 disadvantaged neighbourhoods.
Levi Roots said: “I know first-hand what it’s like growing up in this community, so I’m excited to be getting behind the Fit and Fed campaign this summer.
“Sessions like this aren’t just good fun, they get kids from different areas together to meet each other – as well as doing some sport and having something to eat.
“It’s a huge support to the families who aren’t able to give their kids a healthy meal over the school holidays, let alone pay for activity clubs – which will have a hugely positive impact on the community.”
All year round, the St. Matthew’s Project uses football to provide a safe and encouraging environment where young people can come together and enjoy structured sports and learning opportunities.
The project now regularly engages with over 160 young people every week from across Tulse Hill and Brixton and provides free, fun football activities for them.
Jane Ashworth, CEO of StreetGames said: “It’s fantastic to have the support of Levi Roots for this campaign. Holiday hunger, inactivity and isolation are very real issues facing the young people in communities like this all over the country.
“Parents in the country’s poorest communities face tough choices every school holiday – having to work to earn money, to feed their kids and make sure they’re looked after.
“We hope that Fit and Fed sessions, led by great projects like St. Matthews, will be able to help thousands of families over the summer when the programme rolls out nationally.”
Families struggling financially often find school holidays the hardest time as their food bill can increase suddenly as free school meals disappear.
The lowest income households are also the most likely to have the least active children, spending less than £2 per week on sport.
Research by Kellogg’s shows that 73% of the poorest families report a constant struggle to feed their children in the summer holidays, and inflation is pushing the price of food up even further.