Seven leading public and child health organisations are jointly calling on policy makers to increase access to good food for children through expansion of school meals, Healthy Start and breakfast programmes.
"Access to nutritious food is a fundamental human right, and one of the key foundations for good health. Children must be well nourished to learn and maximise educational attainment, and healthy eating in childhood is vital for development and good health and wellbeing throughout the life course."
This is how a new report Health of the Next Generation: Good Food for Children, from seven leading public health organisations introduces its agenda for change. The report focusses on recommendations to scale up the impact of three key programmes designed to support children's access to nutritious food: school meals, Healthy Start and the National School Breakfast Programme.
Key recommendations include:
- Adopting universal school meal provision for all primary and secondary school children to improve the next generation's diet, health and educational attainment. It goes on to advocate a stepped approach, align with effective monitoring and enforcement of healthy food standards, ensure evaluation and enabling auto-enrolment ahead of achievement of universalism, to maximise uptake and access to pupil premiums.
- Extending long term funding for the National School Breakfast Programme beyond July 2024 to enable schools and families to plan ahead, alongside healthy food standards for breakfasts.
- Expanding eligibility of Healthy Start voucher programmes, including increasing the threshold for entitlement, including children up to age 5, making it easier to apply and promote uptake, and confirming permanent eligibility for children from households with no recourse to public funds.
The report also recognises the long term costs of investment in these programmes, and supports recommendations from the Recipe for Change coalition (co-ordinated by Sustain) to expand use of levies on unhealthy food and drink, as one potential source of raising further revenues for children's health programmes.
Organisations who have worked together on the report and recommendations include the Faculty of Public Health, the Association of Directors of Public Health, the Royal Society of Medicine, the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, the School and Public Health Nurses Association, the British Association for Child and Adolescent Public Health and the Royal Society for Public Health.
Welcoming the report, Children's Food Campaign Manager Barbara Crowther says:
"We're delighted to see these highly respected public health professionals bringing their combined insight and expertise together in this very focussed set of recommendations, and thrilled that they closely reflect many of our own calls to policy makers. Day in, day out, the members of these organisations are out there supporting families, schools, medical professionals and local authority health programmes. They witness the positive benefits when children access healthy food, and the devastating impacts of poor and inadequate nutrition. By raising their voices together and making such a clear call for change, we hope policy makers will welcome these focussed recommendations as part of a wider roadmap to ensure every child, regardless of background or age, has access to good food that will nurture long term health."
The Children's Food Campaign is currently co-ordinating a Say Yes campaign coalition calling for a progressive programme to achieve healthy school food for all by 2030.
Sustain and the Food Foundation have also been advocating expansion of Healthy Start programmes including increasing voucher value, expanding entitlement including permanent access for families with no recourse to public funds.
Published Wednesday 17 January 2024
Children's Food Campaign: Better food and food teaching for children in schools, and protection of children from junk food marketing are the aims of Sustain's high-profile Children's Food Campaign. We also want clear food labelling that can be understood by everyone, including children.
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