Holiday Activities and Food (HAF) guidelines for providers

Holiday Activities and Food (HAF) guidelines for providers

Frequently asked questions (FAQ's) and guidelines for HAF providers.


How much funding should be allocated to meals, and will there be any funding restrictions in terms of the split between paying for food vs. activities?

There is no fixed amount however we recommend around £5 per head. For reference, DfE allocate around £2.34 per pupil per meal for free school meals during term time. Previous HAF providers have provided food through a variety of arrangements, for example, using school or community kitchens, food delivered and prepped at the club, use of food intervention charities, the approach will often depend on the set up of the individual provider. We expect a cost per place for activities to reflect that of a standard holiday club place (in the region of £25 per day).

What are the session length guidelines?

Minimum guidelines:

Easter 4 to 5 days, minimum 4hrs per day

Summer 16 to 20 days, minimum 4hrs per day

Christmas 4 to 5 days, minimum 4hrs per day

For sessions over 4 hours per day, please check Ofsted guidelines and registration requirements.

Food requirements

All providers must provide at least 1 meal a day (breakfast, lunch or an evening meal and all food provided at HAF clubs (including snacks) must meet school food standards.

For some children, the opportunity to enjoy a hot meal at a HAF club is important and our aspiration is that providers should, where possible, try to offer hot meals to children attending HAF clubs. However, we acknowledge that this is not always possible and that alternatives to hot meals can sometimes be more suitable.

To ensure that all children receive a high quality and stigma free experience, if a provider is open to both HAF-funded and non-HAF-funded places, it is vital that all of the children attending are provided with an identical food offer and that HAF funded children are treated equally.

If children on non-HAF-funded places are given the option to bring a packed lunch, then we expect the local authority and the provider to work together to ensure that children attending through HAF have the same choice. This could be fulfilled through the provider and the local authority making arrangements to provide packed lunches for HAF children. All packed lunches must meet the school food standards.

Alternatively, for providers who provide meals on-site, they could consider making the same healthy food available to all children, but with an additional charge for those non-HAF funded places.

All food provided as part of the HAF programme must:

  • comply with regulations on food preparation
  • take into account allergies and dietary requirements (see the allergy guidance for schools)
  • take into account any religious or cultural requirements for food

There is flexibility in the design of the food provision which should always be tailored to ensure that all food meets the dietary needs of the children and families who attend. The food served should also be appropriate for the nature of the session, for example, offering cold packed lunches for parks or outdoor venues or for day trips.

While there can be benefits to using a central food service to provide meals to HAF clubs, we expect local authorities to carefully consider whether using a central food service is the right approach for providing high quality, attractive and tailored meals for those attending the HAF programme.

Providing food on site can provide an opportunity to engage children and families in food preparation and nutrition. Providers have reported that when children are involved in designing menus and the preparation of food, they are more engaged and more willing to try new and healthier food.

We recommend that local authorities consider the provision of the food element of the HAF programme, in particular, in making sure that providers and children are involved in the planning and preparation of food. Such a developmental approach can be key to effecting long-term change in engagement with food and nutrition.

There are also environmental factors to consider when planning the food provision. Local authorities should consider whether clubs preparing food on their own premises would produce less food and packaging waste and result in fewer food-miles than off-site, centralised provision.

Food providers

Lead providers should ensure that the providers they work with are, where applicable, registered as a food business. This provides reassurance to all of those involved that food safety standards are being met.

A food business is defined as anyone preparing, cooking, storing, handling, distributing, supplying or selling food. Further information is available on food business registration.

Local authorities are responsible for enforcing food hygiene laws and can inspect any registered food business at any point in the food production and distribution process. We recommend that HAF coordinators within each local authority are in regular contact with their food safety inspectors to ensure that HAF providers are fully compliant.

Food information regulations - Natasha’s Law

From 1 October 2021, changes to the Food Information Regulations 2014 came into effect, adding new labelling requirements for food that is pre-packed for direct sale (PPDS).

Local authorities should read the guidance on the Food Standards Agency website and ensure that all food provision for the HAF programme meets these requirements.

Enrichment activities

In addition to physical exercise and sport, all HAF-funded provision must provide fun and enriching activities that allow children to:

  • develop new skills or knowledge
  • consolidate existing skills and knowledge
  • try out new experiences
  • have fun and socialise

This could include but is not limited to:

  • creative activities, for example, putting on a play, junk modelling or drumming workshops
  • experiences, for example, a nature walk or visiting a city farm
  • free play, for example, fun and freedom to relax and enjoy themselves

We expect all HAF providers to provide a balanced programme. For providers whose primary focus is set around a specific activity or sport, we expect them to ensure that children attending their provision benefit from a holistic and varied experience.

Physical activities

Holiday clubs must provide activities that meet the physical activity guidelines on a daily basis.

In line with those guidelines, we expect:

  • all children and young people participating in the HAF programme should engage in moderate-to-vigorous physical activity for an average of at least 60 minutes per day
  • children and young people participating in the HAF programme should engage in a variety of types and intensities of physical activity to develop movement skills, muscular fitness, and bone strength
  • children and young people should aim to minimise the amount of time spent being sedentary, and when physically possible should break up long periods of not moving with at least light physical activity

Meeting the physical activity requirement does not have to be in the form of a structured activity session, but might include active travel, free play and sports.

Increasing awareness of healthy eating, healthy lifestyles, and positive behaviours

We expect providers to incorporate helping children to understand more about the benefits of healthy eating and nutrition into their programme. These do not need to be formal learning activities. This could include:

  • getting children involved in food preparation and cooking
  • growing fruit and vegetables
  • taste tests
  • discussing food and healthy eating during mealtimes
  • including food and nutrition in other activities

Offering positive learning and development through HAF activities creates stigma-free opportunities to support children and young people in learning about healthy lifestyles and exercise. This could cover, for example, the use of vapes, cigarettes, drugs, and how this can lead to issues including:

  • economic
  • social
  • personal safety
  • exploitation
  • criminality

Signposting and referrals and supporting families

HAF providers should be able to offer information, signposting or referrals to other services and support, that would benefit the children who attend their provision and their families. Other services and support could include:

  • Citizens Advice
  • school nurses, dentists, or other healthcare practitioners
  • family support services or children’s services
  • housing support officers
  • Jobcentre Plus
  • organisations providing financial education
  • early years and childcare, including help to pay for childcare (for example, Tax-Free Childcare)

There are many ways that providers can meet this element of the programme, for example, through trained and knowledgeable staff engaging with families during drop-off and pick-up times.

We know that many HAF providers have worked to provide weekly training and advice sessions for parents, carers or other family members. We encourage providers who want to do so to continue to offer those sessions.

These sessions could provide advice on how to source, prepare and cook nutritious and low-cost food. This could be combined with the increasing awareness and understanding of healthy eating aspect of the programme, for example, by inviting children and their families to prepare and eat a meal together at a HAF session.

There are alternative ways of delivering this, for example, by providing participating children with ingredients and recipes to take away and try at home with their families.

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