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The Children’s Future Food Inquiry 

The Children’s Future Food Inquiry’s final report and young people’s #Right2Food Charter were published on     April 25th 2019. The young Food Ambassador’s campaign film is available here

An estimated 4.1 million children are living in poverty in the UK but we know little about how many of these children experience food insecurity, how it impacts on their lives and what could be done about it.

The Trussell Trust reports giving out food parcels to more than 500,000 people in 2014/15 of which half are estimated to be for children. Before the introduction of universal infant free school meals, 1.7 million children were eligible for free school meals on the basis of their family income – fewer than those living in poverty but many more than those receiving food parcels.

The only national measure of food insecurity reported by the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation estimates 8.4 million people are living in food insecure households in the UK.  UNICEF’s analysis of this same data estimates 10% of British children are living in severely food insecure households, but this survey is based on a relatively small sample.

The evidence suggests that child food insecurity exists, and potentially affects millions of children but that the nature, extent and effects of child food insecurity are poorly understood. The problem has received scant political attention and children’s voices are absent.

House of Commons Science and Technology Committee Energy drinks and children

Thirteenth Report of Session 2017–19 Report, together with formal minutes relating to the report

There is a lack of consistency in the age used to define a child when it comes to the marketing, sale, advertising and regulation of energy drinks. In considering its responses to the consultation on restricting the sale of energy drinks, the Government should ensure that advertising restrictions and any restrictions on sale are aligned in order to give a consistent and clear message to young people and parents.  

 

Many young people choose to consume energy drinks, and some consume them in significant volumes. Energy drink consumption is higher on average in the UK than in other countries in Europe. Nevertheless, young people consume caffeine from a variety of sources, including tea, coffee, cola and chocolate.

 

Drinking energy drinks is correlated with young people engaging in other risky behaviours such as drinking alcohol and smoking, but it is not possible to determine whether there is any causal link.

 

In our view, there is insufficient evidence as to whether children’s consumption habits are significantly different for energy drinks compared with other caffeinated products such as tea and coffee. We recommend that in the next six months the Government should commission independent research to establish whether energy drinks have more harmful effects than other soft drinks containing caffeine in order to support evidence-based decision-making. There are ethical questions related to undertaking research on the effects of energy drink consumption on children, which would need to be borne in mind when designing further research.

Full details to be found here

Policies to limit marketing of unhealthy foods to children fall short of protecting their health and rights.  

A new report from WHO/Europe finds that many existing policies and regulations aimed at tackling food marketing to children are markedly insufficient, meaning children continue to be exposed to commercial messages promoting foods high in fats, salt and sugar.

The report, which reviews best available evidence on policy implementation in the WHO European Region, finds that around half of the 53 countries in the Region have taken some steps to limit marketing of high fat, salt and sugar (HFSS) foods to children. A few countries have adopted legally binding rules, which specifically restrict HFSS food marketing in certain media, at certain times. Others are attempting to address the challenge of digital marketing. However, many countries still report no action, and an overwhelming preference for self-regulation by the food and advertising industries remains – an approach that is often found wanting by independent review.

Details to be found here 

In addition, the evidence suggests that the impact of existing policies on reducing children’s exposure to HFSS food marketing has been limited, something that is exacerbated by changing media usage and the increasingly integrated nature of marketing across a number of different media and platforms

Below are some links to other useful resources.

  • The original 'Beyond the School Gate' research report can be found here.

  • Survey of diet of children in Scotland 2010 volume 1 and 2: this research highlighted the high numbers of young people buying food and drink outside school at lunchtime.

Volume 1: 'Diet, Obesity and Physical Activity'

Volume 2: 'Food and Drink Purchases Around the School Day'

  • Our Food and Public Health policy briefing 'Healthy eating, healthy learning: Understanding why young teenagers buy unhealthy food and drink beyond the school gate' can be found here.

  • The socio-economic boundaries shaping young people’s lunchtime food practices on a school date can be found here

  • Schools and young people ‘hold the key’ to turning pupils away from fast food

Wendy Wills, professr of food and public health and director of the Centre for Research in Primary and Community Care at the School of Health and Social Work, comments on recent call to ban junk food advertising to children.  

The call, from the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, to ban fast food outlets operating within 400 metres of schools sends an important message to young people and families about the importance of limiting fast food as part of an overall healthier diet. Unfortunately, I doubt it would work, for a number of reasons.

To read the whole article, click here