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220,000 Scots children cannot afford to eat healthily

This news post is almost 6 years old

A study by an independent think tank has shown that many families have no choice but to eat unhealthy meals

Hundreds of thousands of children in Scotland are living in households that cannot afford healthy food.

The Affordability of the Eatwell Guide, from independent think tank The Food Foundation, has found that around 3.7 million children in the UK are part of families who earn less than £15,860 and who have to spend 42% of their after-housing income on food to meet the costs of the government’s nutrition guidelines, making a healthy diet unaffordable.

The research found that in Scotland, families earning less than £15,860 would have to spend 39% of their after-housing income on food to afford the Eatwell Guide, with 220,000 children thought to having to eat unhealthily.

This analysis comes as children in Scotland are in the early weeks of returning to school after summer break amid growing concerns over holiday hunger. The availability of free school meals during term-time is a relief for parents who struggled to feed their children over the holidays.

Widening inequality is leading to higher rates of childhood obesity in deprived areas of Scotland with 16% of children aged two to 15 being obese compared to 12% of children in the richest areas.

Bruce Adamson, Children and Young People’s Commissioner Scotland, said: “Food is a human rights issue. Children have the right to be free from hunger, food insecurity and malnutrition. Experiencing food insecurity as a child impacts negatively on physical health, mental health, and developmental outcomes and is a violation of their rights.

“These figures from the Food Foundation illustrate the impossible task facing many Scottish families. The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child is already concerned that Scotland does not have accurate data on the scale of food insecurity, and we are seeing the effects of this right now across Scotland as we know children are going hungry, yet we still do not know the full extent of the problem.

“Child poverty needs to be recognised as a significant children’s rights issue in Scotland and a sustained, systematic and human rights based approach at both national and local levels is needed to tackle and eradicate it.”

Anna Taylor, executive director of the Food Foundation, said: “The government's measurement of household income highlights the fact that millions of families in the UK cannot afford to eat in line with the government's own dietary guidance. It's crucial that a coordinated cross-government effort develops policy that accounts for the cost of its recommended diet, and creates a food system that does not consign those on lower incomes to the risk of diet-related illness.”