National Food Strategy targets children's health and access to quality meals

RIGHT2FOOD

Photo courtesy of Children's Right2Food Campaign

The first part of the National Food Strategy, the first such review of the UK's food policy in the past 75 years, presented an eye-opening view of the nation's diet as a "slow-motion distaster" and "medical emergency."

One of the biggest concerns among from the report is for the health of children, particularly those from low-income families. The National Food Strategy notes the fear that younger generations are at risk of being "left behind." A recent You.Gov report noted that 28% of children have been eating less since the Covid-19 pandemic began.

"If the UK is to lead the way globally, it is vitally important that we change our food system to tackle inequality to ensure every child has access to a diet on which they can thrive," says Jo Ralling, Head of Youth Engagement and Communications at the Food Foundation. "We now need Government to act quickly and incorporate these recommendations into the Autumn Spending Review, so we can start to improve the future of our children and the planet.” 

Dame Emma Thompson and the Young Food Ambassadors for the Children’s Right2Food Campaign were happy to see children’s health made a priority in Part I of the Strategy, with several actions from the Children’s Right2Food Charter being addressed. 

Among the recommendations from the Young Food Ambassadors as priorities for the UK Government:

  • Expansion of Free School Meals (FSM) to every child from a household on Universal Credit or equivalent benefits
  • Expansion of the Holiday Activity and Food Programme to all areas in England, ensuring summer holiday support is available to all children in receipt of FSM
  • A 12-month extension of the ‘Food to the Vulnerable’ ministerial Task Force
  • Increasing the value of Healthy Start vouchers to £4.25 per week and expanding the scheme to pregnant woman and households with children under 4 where the parent or guardian is in receipt of Universal Credit or equivalent benefits

“It’s a huge win for us to see such an important Strategy prioritise children’s Right2Food," says Dev Sharma, 15, Young Food Ambassador from Leicester. "We have been campaigning for this day for over two years and it feels that finally we are being listened to. We now want to see this happen for real and for Government to roll out the proposals as soon as possible. The poorest children in the UK are going hungry every day and this has to stop.”

The Campaign’s 20 Young Food Ambassadors have asked for the UK Government to deliver their Right2Food Charter as an outcome from the Children’s Future Food Inquiry supported by the Campaign’s Ambassador, Dame Emma Thompson. The Young Food Ambassadors have also launched a Right2Food podcast series which addresses young people’s experiences across the UK during the pandemic and the difficulties accessing food. 

“It is vital that children are heard and their rights to food, health and education are respected," says Lindsay Graham, Children’s Right2Food Campaigner, said. "I hope that Government moves quickly to make sure that children and young people in every part of England regardless of income have access to a healthy and affordable diet.”

The Strategy reveals that poor diets are responsible for one in seven deaths in the UK (90,000 a year). It also cited that a poorly nurished child will struggle to concentrate and suffer from reduced educational prospects if undernourished or malnourished. 

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