Notes written by children labelling different food groups

Childhood obesity

Hungry for change

12 June 2020

Giving children a food system that works for them

In brief

In the wreckage of a global pandemic, we need to look at what can be done to make the food system work harder to prioritise health and we need to start with children, ensuring they all have equal opportunities to be healthy, no matter where they live, what their backgrounds or their level of financial security.

 

Executive summary

COVID-19 has caused extraordinary upheaval to both the food system and everyday life. Whether individuals have coped or struggled during lockdown, the experience has undoubtedly prompted a period of reflection – especially from young people. They are now better able to recognise how the food system is failing them. In particular, it has brought into sharp focus the way children’s health – mental, physical and nutritional – has been negatively impacted by COVID-19 restrictions.

It has also highlighted the inequalities that blight the food system, including the struggle that children, particularly those living in lower income areas face. These inequalities have long existed as children from lower socioeconomic backgrounds have consistently come up against greater barriers in accessing healthy food. However, the impact of COVID-19 has exacerbated this gap.

The research shows those from lower income households are far more likely to eat less healthily due to a lack of routine, lack access to healthier food and drink options and are also less likely to have more home cooked meals while living in lockdown when compared to those from more financially stable backgrounds.

The pause COVID-19 has created has allowed us to see, more clearly than ever before, the extent to which the food system needs a reset. It has driven a renewed interest in food, as demonstrated by the successful campaign Marcus Rashford supported for the provision of free school meals.

Crucially, young people have been woken up to these challenges and are now actively seeking out change. They want to see a better food system that works for all children, especially those from lower income backgrounds. This has created a moment in time that needs to be acted upon. Young people are Hungry for Change.

Hungry for Change outlines the opportunities and learnings from lockdown that can be seized on to effect positive change including:

  • More young people are cooking for themselves, eating with their families, drinking more water and enjoying it, unlocking positive wellbeing
  • But they’re snacking more than ever and struggling with the lack of structure in their day creating a negative impact on their physical and mental health
  • Young people are missing safe social spaces – like their favourite food restaurants, parks, community groups – where they could spend time with friends locally
  • Young people living in lower income households are more likely to be experiencing the negative aspects of lockdown, and less likely to be benefiting from its positive impacts
  • Young people across the board now have a greater awareness of the injustices within the food system thanks to being exposed to issues like food shortages
  • This has driven a powerful appetite for change amongst some young people who do not want to see a return to life as it was before lockdown
  • This change is especially important for those from lower income backgrounds

 

In collaboration with

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