More children across North Wales have been enjoying food and exercise activities this summer with almost 50% more schools taking part in the award-winning School Holiday Enrichment Programme (SHEP).
SHEP is a school-based education programme, supported by Public Health Dietitians and Dietetic Assistants from Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board, designed to engage children in fun nutrition and physical activity sessions during three weeks of the summer holidays.
Andrea Basu, Service Lead for Public Health Dietetics, said: “It’s been amazing to see the SHEP scheme grow. We began in 2016 supporting just two schools in Wrexham to then working with 15 schools across North Wales in 2019. In 2020 due to COVID restrictions, the scheme was not able to run, but this summer almost 50% more schools have taken part, with 28 in total.”
Children take part in hands on ‘Food and Fun activities like the Eatwell relay game, how to build a healthy plate and design their own healthy meal, and exploring the sugar content of snack foods and drinks. Each week the children are encouraged and rewarded for setting their own healthy food target, for example trying a new vegetable.
SHEP is supported by Welsh Government funding and is coordinated by the Welsh Local Government Association. In North Wales the partnership between local authorities, Dietetics, the school meals service, leisure services, and many others has led to the year-on-year growth and success of the scheme.
Before the scheme starts each year, the Dietetics team work with all six North Wales local authority educational teams to provide accredited food and nutrition training for teachers and teaching assistants to run the nutrition sessions. Schools also receive a bumper box of nutrition resources and games all prepared by the Dietetics team to provide everything needed to run sessions with the children.
Anwen Weightman, Dietetic Assistant Practitioner, has seen first-hand how two Anglesey schools have benefited from the nutrition training provided by the team.
Anwen said: “Teaching staff have told us how much they’ve learnt about nutrition and were delighted with the quality of our resources. They were able to share their knowledge with the children as well as using it to benefit their own families’ health and wellbeing.”
Getting ready for SHEP involves weeks of planning, training, and hard work for the team but Gail Peters, Public Health Dietitian Team Lead, in Conwy and Denbighshire, said: “It’s all worth it when we see children laughing and having fun whilst learning about healthy eating and enjoying tasty nutritious school meals. There have been so many highlights; children tasting fruits and vegetables they hadn’t ever eaten before and then going back for seconds, the shock on faces when learning how many sugar cubes there are in some favourite foods and drinks and the shrieks of laughter while exercising along to a game all about ‘go’ and ‘whoa’ foods.”
Sarah Powell-Jones, Dietetic Assistant Practitioner, visited Connahs Quay High School to observe a Food and Fun session in action.
Sarah said: “The children were fully engaged and were clearly learning from the experience. They could tell their teacher why they need to eat a variety of foods and where certain foods fitted within the Eatwell guide, our national food model. The school was using its outdoor facilities brilliantly to play the relay game we provided to help them learn about food and nutrition.”
The summer holidays can be a time when some families struggle to afford or access healthy food, and some children may experience social isolation or a lack of intellectual stimulation during the school break. The intent for SHEP 2022 is to be bigger and better so even more children and families can benefit from taking part.