A bold and broad plan to tackle food poverty and holiday hunger faced by almost one third (32%) of Newham’s children has been launched today (21 July) by the borough’s Mayor.
Families in Newham, where 50% of children are living in poverty, have been hit hard by the pandemic and struggled to afford to put food on the table.
To end food poverty and hunger, Newham Council has worked with local partners, families and with experts in the field to create its new Young People and Food Security strategy.
The strategy builds on a £6m raft of emergency initiatives to support children and families through the pandemic, while addressing the underlying problems causing poverty. It aims to ensure all residents can access affordable, healthy food in their nurseries, schools, high streets and neighbourhoods.
Rokhsana Fiaz, Mayor of Newham said: “Poverty is the main cause of food insecurity and it is an outrage that so many of our residents cannot afford enough food to live a healthy and happy life. This is a basic human right.
“The campaign by Marcus Rashford highlighted why government needs to do much, much more; and all of us stand united with him to say we will not accept allowing our children to go hungry any more.
“This summer around 17,000 children in our borough will receive food vouchers in the school break. That is a sobering number.
“Our strategy aims to address the scourge of food insecurity head on. We will ensure everyone in Newham is food secure. In the 21st Century, no one in our borough, should be going hungry.”
By Year 6, 43% of Newham pupils were overweight or obese, the second highest rate in London due to food poverty. NHS England research shows that children living in the most deprived areas had the highest levels of obesity.
Cllr Sarah Ruiz, who chairs the borough’s Young People and Food Security Strategy taskforce said: “For too many families, the only affordable option is food that is high
in fat, sugar and salt – being forced to choose between cheap, processed food, or hunger is not Food Security as defined by the United Nations.
“Undernutrition and obesity are two ends of the scale highlighting a diet that is not providing the right nutrition. This strategy addresses the structural inequalities and gives residents access to foods we need for good health and wellbeing.”
The plan brings fresh initiatives and existing programmes under one roof, ensuring a lasting legacy to the Council’s emergency response to the pandemic. These include encouraging healthy food retailers to open in food deserts, piloting healthy eating projects in secondary schools, introducing borough-wide food clubs, a new digital food map on the Council’s website showing local available food support services.
The Council is also launching a summer holiday action plan to support children with food vouchers and holiday activities, promoting the Healthy Start scheme, which encourages stores to accept Healthy Start food vouchers for under 5’s, and is continuing the flagship Eat For Free programme, ensuring up to 14,000 primary school children receive a daily nutritious school meal.
The Council has worked with partners, the voluntary sector, community and faith sector, schools, health, partners, employers and businesses to develop the strategy, which will help make Newham a healthier and happier place for children to grow up.