Sharon Hodgson MP: It’s time to listen to the voices of children and young people when it comes to food insecurity
Food insecurity is a growing issue here in the UK and there is a serious concern that children are bearing the brunt, says Shadow Minister for Public Health Sharon Hodgson MP.
That is why I, along with colleagues from across the political spectrum and from all four nations of the UK, will come together today to address this issue by launching our All-Nation Children’s Future Food Inquiry.
The first of its kind, this Inquiry will have at its very core the principle of consultation with school-aged children and will ask children and young people about the food they eat and what they think needs to be done to ensure their food supports their growth and development.
The inquiry will be backed up by academic literature and expert testimonies. Its ultimate aim is to bring children’s real life experiences when it comes to their food and what they eat to the very heart of Westminster; ensuring they are no longer ignored when it comes to policy development.
Over the last 15 years, we have seen a welcome shift to provide healthier and more sustainable food in all UK schools, with England and Scotland introducing Universal Infant Free School Meals and in Wales there has been a decade of breakfast club provision.
Yet, in the 2016 report by the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, they concluded that when it comes to the UK there is a high prevalence of overweight and obese children and a lack of comprehensive data on child food security. They recommended more must be done, including identifying the root causes of child food insecurity and malnutrition – and this Inquiry, launched today, will seek to ask children and young people to contribute to this important debate.
It is 2017 and the true scale of food insecurity in the UK is still unknown. Whilst there have been moves to identify this scale, including UNICEF estimating a staggering 10% of children in the UK are living in severe food insecurity and Frank Field MP’s Hungry Holidays Inquiry which estimated that as many as three million children could be at risk of hunger over the school holidays, there still remains a policy void that must be filled.
It is about time that things were turned around and we can start by asking those children and young people who are most affected what they think needs to be done. Are we meeting their needs? How can we improve? What should be done to shape future policy? How can we keep them and their communities’ food secure?
For the first time, children and young people will be asked to come up with real policy recommendations that will help address the rising issue of food insecurity in our society and then presented to politicians to take up and act upon. Young people’s voices will be heard.
Over the next sixteen months, working closely with our cross-party group of MPs, the Food Foundation, experts in this field, and most importantly the children and young people themselves, we will ensure that together we come up with 6 key recommendations to present to governments across the four nations to consider and act upon.
It is a big task we have set for ourselves, but it is one of the most important if we are to ensure the next generation of children are as healthy as possible.
Sharon Hodgson is the Shadow Minister for Public Health and is the Labour Member of Parliament for Washington and Sunderland West.