Food insecurity in London: it's time to act
According to a recent Survey of Londoners, 400,000 children in the capital experience food insecurity (GLA, 2019).
One in six (17%) children in the capital experience food insecurity, along with one in five adults (1.5 million Londoners), 36% of single parents and 32% of black Londoners.
The survey also found that half (49%) of parents with children experiencing food insecurity are socially isolated. Sixteen percent of parents from food insecure households reported being unable to provide balanced meals for their children, and 9% said their children did not always have enough to eat. These figures could increase if food prices rise following the UK’s departure from the European Union.
Being food insecure means that at times a person’s food intake is reduced and their eating patterns are disrupted because of a lack of money and other resources for obtaining food. The Survey of Londoners combines the categories of ‘low food security’ and ‘very low security’, and reports them as ‘food insecurity’.
This is an unacceptable state of affairs in the world’s fifth richest economy.
In response to this, we have partnered with the Food Foundation and the GLA to host the first-ever summit on children’s food insecurity in the UK, with the aim of putting young Londoners at the forefront of food policy and to explore the barriers and opportunities to protecting children’s nutrition and the actions stakeholders can take to support the agenda.
READ – the 2019 Kitchen Social Impact Report
READ – London Children’s #Right2Food Charter
READ – the Summit presentation slides
LISTEN – as young people tell us “what we need”
WATCH – to find out more about the Children’s #Right2Food Campaign
Supported by the Berkeley Foundation, the event gave us an opportunity to disseminate learnings and recommendations from our Kitchen Social programme and launch a London-wide charter for food written by London-based young food ambassadors on the Watchdog Youth Board, and marked the start of a powerful, cohesive movement in London to end child food insecurity for good.
We hope it sets a precedent for other UK cities to follow suit.
The charter builds on the Children’s Future Food Inquiry (CFFI), which was launched in April 2019 (England) and includes the London Children’s #Right2Food Charter, which calls for a new, independent Children’s Food Watchdog to lead the charge on tackling children’s food insecurity in the UK. It also asks for the extension of Free School Meals to everyone who needs them, including migrant children with No Recourse to Public Funds as well as calling on government to provide statutory funding for free holiday provision, including food, for young people eligible for free school meals.
Anna Taylor OBE, Executive Director of the Food Foundation, says: “Access to good, affordable food is a basic human right, but in a city that believes in compassion and justice, our children’s right to food goes unprotected. How can we allow the growth and development of future generations to be restricted by poverty? London’s new Food Strategy and the trailblazing work done by local authorities have laid the foundations for a visionary approach to children’s food. New data affords us an understanding of the scale and nature of the problem in the capital. We have renewed calls from children themselves for a Children’s Food Watchdog to tackle the magnitude and gravity of food insecurity in the UK. Young Londoners want their city to lead the way on securing every child’s #Right2Food: it’s high time the government ensures our most fundamental needs.”
Anne Longfield OBE, Children’s Commissioner for England, says: “We live in one of the most affluent countries in the world, yet we have hundreds of thousands of children going hungry. I’ve met children who tell me they don’t know what will be in the cupboard during the school holidays when they’re not receiving their school meal. The fact is, if you grow up in poverty you have fewer opportunities to live a healthy, prosperous life. Tackling child poverty and keeping children safe should be a moral endeavour for every government. Our ambition should be for a country that is a great place to grow up for every child. The Government must make tackling food insecurity and child poverty a priority through changes to the benefits system and more investment in early years and family support.”
At the Mayor’s Fund for London, we will continue to play our part in ending child food insecurity through Kitchen Social which, since its inception in January 2017, has delivered food and activities through 122 hubs in 24 boroughs, delivered 2,978 sessions and provided 97,792 meals to 21,124 children and young people, and secured 286 volunteer hours from professional chefs and nutritionists.
Recognising the continued high levels of need, plus the possibility of rising food prices post-Brexit, we have taken the decision to extend Kitchen Social to cover 2020 and our next Kitchen Social evaluation report is due to be released in May. However, our ability to see this commitment through will depend on the level of funding we can raise beyond Easter. At present, despite limited funding from the Department for Education for piloting free holiday provision in a small number of local authorities, there is no nationwide statutory provision for children eligible for free school meals over holiday periods.
“Every child has a right to food, it’s not a privilege” – Young Food Ambassador, Rockmount Primary School.
It’s up to us all to raise awareness of this social injustice by working together to champion the London Children’s #Right2Food Charter and to give young people a platform to let policy-makers know what they need.