Health experts call on political parties to address diet-related disease in children

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A new report calls for a food manifesto for the under-fives to address the challenge of childhood obesity and malnutrition.


In the report, ‘Averting a Recipe for Disaster: our Children and their Food’, Paul Lindley, the founder and chief executive of baby food company Ella’s Kitchen, calls on the food industry and British political parties to create a food manifesto for the under-fives to address the ‘devastating impact of diet-related disease.’

He claims that to date the solutions to the most pressing problems around nutrition for the under-fives, while independently positive, have been too fragmented and on too small a scale to tackle childhood obesity and the increasing incidence of children going hungry across the UK.

Mr Lindley, (right), said, ‘The current cost to the NHS of diet-related disease is estimated to be nearly £6bn annually and the impact of poor nutrition stretches far deeper, with long-term impacts on national productivity.

‘We cannot offer a "silver bullet solution" - this is a 25 year challenge which requires co-ordinated action from everyone, across industry and government, retailers, educators, parents and the media.

‘If our politicians can work together, rather than with disparate aims, there is an opportunity to save a generation of children from the twin evils of obesity and hunger.’

A survey of parents and teachers carried out by YouGov on behalf of Ella’s Kitchen revealed that 45 per cent of teachers do not think Government does enough to support schools in encouraging children to eat healthily.

Around 88 per cent of teachers said that poor nutrition contributed to children’s negative behaviour, and 72 per cent reported having seen children who had skipped breakfast and had no lunch or the means to pay for one.

The report, carried out by Ella’s Kitchen in collaboration with the Children’s Food Trust, Magic Breakfast and the National Obesity Forum, also highlights successful initiatives working towards improving nutritional standards in the UK to build on, such as the Children’s Food Trust’s Let’s Get Cooking and the NHS Healthy Start initiative.

It outlines specific ideas as to how the food industry, charities and the media could come together to build on these existing programmes, including:

  • Making cooking compulsory on the national curriculum - dedicating one compulsory hour per week in nurseries, primary and secondary schools to practical cooking and food education.

  • Introducing a resident food enthusiast in every early years setting and school to act as an independent voluntary expert to assess and advise on nutritional and food-related issues.

  • Improving support for new mothers by extending the Healthy Start programme to include more food types, vouchers for vitamins and to broaden the eligibility criteria.

  • A free breakfast for every primary school pupil regardless of family income.

  • Calling on major supermarkets to run free weekly cookery workshops for children and parents and offer discounted ingredients to encourage cooking at home.

Carmel McConnell, founder of Magic Breakfast, said, ‘I welcome this important report, which reinforces our own evidence of rising numbers of children arriving at school too hungry to learn. Food skills have been lost in the last generation and the importance of family food education cannot be overstated.

‘Paul Lindley is right in calling for an integrated approach to deal with child hunger and malnutrition as well as obesity, two sides of the same food poverty coin. Implementing these recommendations will potentially avert disaster, and I call on parents, policy makers and food retailers to read this report and take immediate action.’

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