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Nearly 2,000 children are literally looking forward to a feast of summer of fun, having already signed up for Renfrewshire Council’s free, Families First Summer Activity Camps – a week before they even start!

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The theme for the camps is the Rio Olympics and there will be optional dressing up days to celebrate Brazilian culture. Other activities include athletics, football, golf, archery, volleyball and a range of arts and crafts.

The first camps kick off on 29 June. A key component of the Families First Summer Activity Camps is Renfrewshire Council’s pioneering free meals scheme.

Over the last two years the scheme has served more than 27,000 hot lunches to Renfrewshire children during the school holidays. The scheme is part of the council’s drive to tackle poverty and support local families.

The Families First Summer Activity Camps are open to primary one, two and three children who are entitled to school clothing grants, plus their brothers or sisters if they’re still at primary school. Children can also be referred by social workers, head teachers, health visitors, and the council’s advice works team.

Councillor Mark Macmillan, Leader of Renfrewshire Council, said, “Renfrewshire is in the unenviable position of being home to Scotland’s third busiest food-bank and free school meals make a vital difference to many local children. In the past that crucial safety net vanished when the school holidays started. I was determined to change that so our free hot meals scheme was set up during summer 2013.

“I’m proud to say that over the last two years we’ve served 27,000 free hot lunches to local children over the school holidays. But at the same time it saddens me that so many local families continue to face poverty. We are progressively implementing the recommendations of the Renfrewshire Tackling Poverty Commission and I am confident our efforts are making a real difference to the lives of all those who struggle on low incomes.”

Councillor Jacqueline Henry, Convener for Education and Children added, “Parents have told us that the free meals we provide really ease the burden for them during the school holidays. Last summer we saw a 44% rise in the number of people signing up for the Summer Camps.

“This means we can be confident that even more of Renfrewshire’s children are receiving the nutritious food they need to grow into healthy individuals while at the same time enjoying fun activities.”

The free meals and activities are delivered across Renfrewshire, in 12 local venues that include schools and sports centres.

The Renfrewshire scheme was the first in Scotland to offer free meals to pupils throughout the entire spring, summer, and October holidays, and to offer meals during the Christmas break. It was also the first of its kind to offer meals at locations throughout the council area.