Going hungry - 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.

Helen Wiggins

Healthy Living Platform was happy to have an opportunity to talk about food poverty in a recent webinar, as part of LEAP’s Winter With Us campaign.

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).

Helen Wiggins is LEAP into Healthy Living’s Programme Coordinator

About A Better Start

A Better Start is a ten-year (2015-2025), £215 million programme set-up by The National Lottery Community Fund, the largest funder of community activity in the UK. Five A Better Start partnerships based in Blackpool, Bradford, Lambeth, Nottingham and Southend are supporting families to give their babies and very young children the best possible start in life. Working with local parents, the A Better Start partnerships are developing and testing ways to improve their children’s diet and nutrition, social and emotional development, and speech, language and communication.

The work of the programme is grounded in scientific evidence and research. A Better Start is place-based and enabling systems change. It aims to improve the way that organisations work together and with families to shift attitudes and spending towards preventing problems that can start in early life. It is one of five major programmes set up by The National Lottery Community Fund to test and learn from new approaches to designing services which aim to make people’s lives healthier and happier

The National Children’s Bureau is coordinating an ambitious programme of shared learning for A Better Start, disseminating the partnerships’ experiences in creating innovative services far and wide, so that others working in early childhood development or place-based systems change can benefit.

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