Focus on Children, Health and Food

28 January 2019

Children were the focus of two events in the Scottish Parliament last week. 

The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH) launched its report State of Child Health: Two Years On. It demonstrated that Scottish Government has made good progress in development of policies aiming to improve children’s health but that the crucial step now is to see the implementation and resultant translation into better health for children. The enthusiasm of the children and young people at the event was infectious as they presented their artwork, spoke and organised an interactive activity table.  If we can ensure that as adults we are equally enthusiastic about implementation and improvement then we should have nothing to worry about.

 Monica Lennon MSP who hosted the reception spoke with warmth and personal involvement about children’s health issues focusing on the ambition of Scotland being the best country for children to grow up in. The Minister for Public Health and Sport Joe Fitzpatrick gave a thorough account of actions Scottish Government is taking to improve child health focusing on inequalities, alcohol, mental health as well as obesity, acknowledging the importance of actions in this area and the commitment to halve childhood obesity by 2030.

Art work presented at the launch of RCPCH report a State of Child Health: Two Years On.

The second event of the day was an evidence session for the Children’s Future Food Inquiry. Chaired by Alison Johnstone MSP and Children and Young People's Commissioner for Scotland Bruce Adamson, it was an eye-opening, informative and important meeting. Four young people spoke passionately about their experience of the food environment and food insecurity. We then listened to the evidence from 5 experts working in academia, communities and schools who spoke about the current research on and experience of childhood food insecurity. The discussion that followed included the problem of holiday hunger, school food, food banks, right to food, social security, inequalities, stigma, knowledge about food and cooking skills, adverse childhood experiences and resilience, and lived experience of food insecurity. There are many issues surrounding children and food that we must tackle together in Scotland, if we want to ensure that we can deliver a healthy positive food experience for our children.

What Young People Say about Food is the report that accompanies the Children’s Future Food Inquiry and it reveals how poverty affects what children eat. The young people presented a powerful short video which we would encourage you to watch.

Both events’ focus on children’s health, wellbeing and lived experience resonated strongly with the research published last year by the Food Foundation on Affordability of the UK’s Eatwell Guide which revealed that over 24% of households in Scotland would need to spend more than a quarter of their disposable income after housing costs to buy food recommended by the Eatwell Guide.

One of the young people present at the event asked why food poverty and food insecurity were a problem in a country as affluent as Scotland. Bruce Adamson said that poverty was the number one issue that comes up when he speaks to children. He highlighted that this was not a problem of lack of resources but rather of political choices. Let’s hope that the current focus on children, health and food will help to deliver the change needed.