Children from the poorest families should receive free healthy meals at holiday clubs, just as they do during the school term, according to new research from ippr north, an independent thinktank. All children are now enjoying their school holidays but 850,000 children who usually get free school meals face six weeks without support. ippr north argues it is crucial that children from low income families benefit from nutritious food all year round.
Research shows that there is a significant obesity gap with almost one in five children living in the most deprived areas suffering obesity, compared with just under one in seven of those in the least deprived areas.
Research by the thinktank shows that the cost of providing a healthy meal each day over the six week summer break is 46.20 pounds per primary school child, and 48.60 pounds per secondary pupil. Evidence shows that low income families often resort to cheaper food which is energy dense but less nutritious. The analysis shows that to provide low income families with equivalent support over the six week summer holiday would cost the Government up to 50 million pounds.
Sue Stirling, Director of ippr north, said: “Extending free meals to holiday clubs for the poorest children would help encourage good eating habits all year round and improve concentration and learning during term time. In the holidays, many poor children are eating cheaper and energy dense food but are being nutritionally deprived. We shouldn’t be blaming poorer parents: we should be helping them meet the cost of healthy alternatives.”