Covid-19 and Children’s Food: Parents’ Priorities for Building Back Better – Beth Bradshaw of Food Active Writes

A new briefing published by Food Active and the Children’s Food Campaign shows overwhelming support for the Government extending free school meals to all children in poverty, following their experiences of feeding children during lockdown.

As millions more children return to school this week, research with over 750 parents across the UK released today [10.09.2020] shows overwhelming support for the Government extending free school meals to all children in poverty, following their experiences of feeding children during lockdown.

We teamed up with the Children’s Food Campaign once again to gather views and experiences from parents, which paints a vivid picture of how children’s eating and drinking habits were affected during lockdown, with one in three (31%) saying they had found it harder to maintain healthy, nutritious eating habits whilst children were at home.

  • 7 in 10 parents reported that their children ate more snacks as a result of being in lockdown.
  • Children ate more crisps (35%), ice creams and lollies (46%), cakes and biscuits (40%), sweets and chocolate (30%).
  • 54% of parents surveyed said more home cooked meals were eaten whilst 43% said they ate the same as usual.
  • 2 in 5 children (40%) ate more fruit and veg, whilst 1 in 3 (33%) drank more water.
  • Boredom, anxiety, and treats and rewards for good behaviour were cited by parents as reasons their children wanted constant snacks and food.

The research also reveals a continued high degree of concern amongst parents about growing levels of children’s food insecurity and hunger. Parents were asked their views on the Government’s commitment to fund free school meals and healthy food policies, as schools reopen this week.

  • 9 in 10 parents (90%) agreed that the Government should now review eligibility to make free school meals available to ALL children in poverty. Parents also agree that eligibility should be based on income, regardless of immigration status (89%).
  • More than 8 in 10 parents (83%) would also like to see holiday food provision available for all children eligible for Free School Meals.
  • More than 7 in 10 (73%) support the Government decision to retain Universal Infant Free School Meals, compared to 26% support for restricting free meals to children in poverty only.
  • Almost 7 in 10 (68%) would like the Universal Infant Free School Meal programme extended to the whole of primary schools.

Finally, the research asked parents what their priorities were for children’s food and to help ‘build back better’, as children return to school. Alongside extending eligibility to Free School Meals and providing more support for children living in food insecure households (56%), parents strongly backed further measures to increase availability and affordability of healthier food and drink, and reduce the prompts that will continue to fuel desire to eat less healthy foods and snacking habits. Parents want to see price promotions away from unhealthy foods and towards healthier ones, with more than 1 in 2 (52%) of parents including this in their top three priorities for Government action to build back better. One in five (21%) parents also included a ban on TV/online advertising amongst the top three things that they now want Government to prioritise.

Download the briefing.

Download a full presentation of the findings.

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