The impacts of food poverty on families with young children
Helen Wiggins, LEAP into Healthy Living’s Programme Coordinator, explains how her project is tackling food poverty in the community.
This blog was originally published on the The National Lottery Community Fund website for the A Better Start programme.
Food poverty has always been a problem for families but now, because of Covid-19, the picture looks much worse. Across the UK, 14% of households with children say they are not able to access sufficient, affordable healthy food. That’s a rise of 3% since before Covid-19.
Many people report issues such as:
- reduced portion size
- constantly feeling hungry
- and often having poor alternatives like takeaways or tinned food.
How does food poverty affect young children and their families?
The effects on early childhood can be significant and long-lasting:
- Babies are often born underweight or under-nourished.
- Children routinely miss out on getting their recommended 5-a-day fruit and veg.
- Parents report skipping meals so that their children have food to eat.
Across the LEAP wards, 1 in 4 children start school overweight or obese. Families in Lambeth live in highly-populated ‘good food deserts’, where takeaways are abundant, and it is often challenging or inconvenient to get to markets where there are healthier choices.
Easier to eat chicken and chips
One Mum finds it much easier to feed her family chicken and chips for £2.99 than trek to Brixton market. It’s ‘overwhelming with a buggy and two small children’ she explains. This feeling is no doubt compounded by the anxiety of Covid-19.
Getting the community involved is key to our work
At Healthy Living Platform, we listen to our families and work with them to find long-term solutions for the issues they are facing.
We involve local people in everything we do, including food distribution, which is key to reaching the families who really need it. That’s why we have partnered with the council to run a central surplus-food hub. From this hub, we redistribute food to over 35 communities in Lambeth. The initiative has been running since lockdown. Our Director, Sue Sheehan, set it up and manages it. It is our link to people who know their communities and families, and their food needs, best.
Over 10% of our volunteers who support our deliveries and food distributions are local parents.
Much more than food
At Healthy Living Platform we have united a community of families in our local fight against food poverty.
We work on a membership basis. Families sign up to receive fruit and vegetable bags, join healthy living sessions, get recipe packs delivered, and hear news of local support and networks.
Together with LEAP, we’ve launched our New Baby programme to deliver free, cooked, healthy meals direct to families and their baby too.
We do much more than food. Our team signposts families to a range of other local services. We pick up on many safeguarding issues that could otherwise be lost amid a pandemic.
Our families run these sessions themselves too. During October, we launched a series of online Cook Along sessions, celebrating Black History Month, in collaboration with our families. Our parent Food Ambassadors delivered these sessions.
To find our more download the food poverty webinar (PDF document).