Dame Emma Thompson and the Young Food Ambassadors for the Children’s Right2Food Campaign are delighted to see children’s health made a priority in Part One of the National Food Strategy as several of the actions the Children’s Right2Food Charterare recommended in the new report launched today.
As the first major review of the UK’s food policy in nearly 75 years, the National Food Strategy contains urgent recommendations in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic identifying Britain’s poorest children as at risk of getting “left behind” and describing the nation’s diet as a “slow-motion disaster” and “medical emergency” requiring immediate action.
The Strategy contains the following recommendations that the Young Food Ambassadors have also identified 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
The Children’s Right2Food Campaign is today celebrating a major step forward for children’s health as Henry Dimbleby’s report says diet is a key determinant of children’s life chances and recognises that the poor are more likely to suffer from both hunger and obesity which can cause a lifetime of disadvantage and health problems.
For over 2 years, the Campaign’s 20 Young Food Ambassadors have been calling on Government action 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 captures young people’s experiences across the UK during the Covid-19 pandemic and highlights how many have had difficulty accessing food.
Dev Sharman, 15, Young Food Ambassador from Leicester, said: “It’s a huge win for us to see such an important Strategy prioritise children’s Right2Food. We have been campaigning for this day for over 2 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.”
Jo Ralling, Head of Youth Engagement and Communications at the Food Foundation, said: “Henry Dimbleby’s trailblazing report is a game changer and really highlights the importance of prioritising children’s health especially for the most vulnerable and poorest in society. 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. 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.”
Lindsay Graham, Children’s Right2Food Campaigner, said: “I am delighted to see that the work and campaigning of the Young Food Ambassadors is being valued and considered within the National Food Strategy being launched today. Under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child it is vital that children are heard and their rights to food, health and education are respected. Today we are seeing real progress and 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.”
Drawing on evidence gathered before Covid-19, the Strategy reveals that poor diets are responsible for one in seven deaths in the UK (90,000 a year), vastly more than traffic accidents (1,400 a year), and almost as deadly as smoking (92,000). The global pandemic has only heightened the situation’s urgency, with diet-related illnesses such as obesity increasing the chances of dying from Covid-19. Obese people are 150% more likely to be admitted to intensive care with Covid-19.
The Strategy also reports that a poorly nourished child will struggle to concentrate and suffer from reduced educational prospects and that diet is a key determinant of a child’s life chances as it is essential for both physical and mental development.
Recent data from the Food Foundation showed that 12% of adults are worried about not being able to feed their children over the summer holidays and 28% report that children have been eating less healthily since lockdown began.