Free activities and healthy food for children and young people this Christmas

Back of archery athlete aiming at a target in the distance

Parents and carers are being encouraged to sign up to a free programme of activities for young people designed to support West Suffolk families this Christmas.
The programme, which includes a range of activities held in Brandon, Bury St Edmunds, Haverhill, Newmarket and Mildenhall as well as in a number of town and village schools, is targeted at those who are eligible for benefits-related free school meals or Pupil Premium. Other criteria around children having an identified need, such as those involved with the care system or other supporting agencies, are also eligible for the activities.

It is s part of the Government’s Holiday Activities and Food programme (HAF), backed by a nationwide investment of up to £220 million, and co-ordinated locally by West Suffolk Council.

Robert Everitt, West Suffolk Council, Cabinet Member for Families and Communities, said: “We are pleased to be working with partners and Suffolk County Council to deliver this programme of free activities and healthy food offers for young people who are eligible for benefits-related free school meals as well as children in care, and young carers.

“It means they can enjoy fun creative and sporting activities that will enable them to develop new skills and build their confidence. There’s also the opportunity to learn about food and cooking and to take home the ingredients for a delicious Christmas dinner and Boxing Day lunch that they and their family can enjoy together.”

Abbeycroft Leisure and Explore Outdoor will be offering four programmes running between Saturday and Thursday, December 18 and 23 and are encouraging families to book onto as many of the events as possible. Spaces are limited and will be allocated on a first come first served basis.

These include:

Family Christmas Park Cooking Days (At least one child from each family must be aged eight or over). A full day out for the family in a local green space or country park. Outdoor cooking master class. Families take home all of the ingredients for Christmas Dinner and Boxing Day lunch. Available in Brandon, Bury St Edmunds, Haverhill, Newmarket and Mildenhall. To book email with the name of your child’s school and the sessions that you want to book.

Christmas Adventure Days (children must be aged between eight and 12). Four hours of activities taking place in and outdoors including archery, catapult making, Christmas crafts, sports and games. Children receive packed lunch and snacks. Available in Brandon, Bury St Edmunds and Haverhill. To book email with the name of your child’s school and the sessions that you want to book.

Free Swimming and Lunch (open to all ages). Abbeycroft Leisure is offering free swimming sessions and a free lunch box to all eligible children from five to 18. Teenagers (11 to 18) – one free swim and packed lunch. Children (five to 11) – one free family swim – one adult and one child swim – including child’s packed lunch and free hot drink and snack for the parent. Available in Bury St Edmunds, Haverhill, Newmarket and Mildenhall. To book parents must email with the name of their child’s school and the sessions that they want to book.

Christmas Food and Activity Packs. There is a limited number of sessions available for children to take part in face to face, due to venues being closed for the holiday period. To be able to support more families this Christmas the council is providing a food pack containing all of the ingredients and recipe cards for a Christmas dinner and Boxing Day lunch. There is also a pack of children and family friendly activities to keep kids entertained and active during the holidays. Available in Brandon, Bury St Edmunds, Haverhill, Newmarket and Mildenhall. To book email with the name of your child’s school and state that you are emailing about the Christmas Food and Activity Packs. Please note these packs are not available to families attending Family Park Cooking sessions.

Alongside this Curvemotion, in Bury St Edmunds, is offering over 500 free soft play or skating places, over 18 days during the holidays, to include a health and freshly made meal and drink. This offer to available to eligible children, aged five to 18. To enquire email

Bury Rugby Club is running three days of sports and Christmas themed activities on site from Monday to Wednesday, December 21 to 23. The last day will include a Christmas party and food will be included through each of the days provision.  All eligible children will receive a festive and sporting activity pack, to include a rugby ball, to take home at the end of their session. To book email

Newmarket Town Council partnered with Newmarket Community Arts will be hosting a Family Fun Christmas themed event at the Memorial Hall, in Newmarket, on Saturday, December 18, between 10am and 3pm. There will be 30 spaces available to children eligible for HAF, as well as this being an open event to the public and non-funded spaces. Events include a Santa’s Workshop, pottery painting, theatrical storying-telling and more.

Premier Education will be running sports based and Christmas-themed activities in schools in Barrow, Bury St Edmunds, Exning, Lakenheath, Mildenhall, Newmarket and Red Lodge. Places have been organised directly with the schools. Each attendee will receive a sports and Christmas themed activity pack, including an item of sports equipment, to take home to use throughout the holidays, and onwards.

Exning Primary School will be running their own activities, including food and activity for eligible children.

The Government’s investment in the HAF programme will build on the foundations laid by West Suffolk Council, sporting organisations, charities and the voluntary sector during the successful programme over the Easter and summer holidays. This initiative is running alongside the £200 million funding announced back in February to provide summer schools to help pupils who have experienced the most disruption as a result of the pandemic.

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