Poorer children should be given free healthy meals during the summer holidays to cut rates of childhood obesity, a think-tank said today.
Holiday clubs should serve food to children who are normally entitled to free school meals, Ippr North (Institute for Public Policy Research) said.
This would help encourage good eating habits among the poorest children who are most likely to be obese.
The report said 850,000 pupils who usually get free school meals now face six weeks over the summer without support.
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.’
The think-tank said almost one in five children living in the most deprived areas are obese, compared with just under one in seven of those in the least deprived areas.
Nutritionally balanced meals
A recently published survey by the Food Standards Agency shows that the poorest 15 per cent of the population eat less nutritionally balanced meals.
Department for Children, Schools and Families Minister Kevin Brennan said: ‘The government has invested almost £500m in healthy school meals, provides free fruit and vegetables, and young people can access out of school hours activities, such as breakfast clubs, both in term time and during the school holidays through the extended schools programme.
‘We have recently announced a £265m subsidy scheme to help disadvantaged children access extended schools’ services.
‘Families facing hardship are receiving additional support through Income Support and the Working Families Tax Credit, and households with children in the poorest fifth of the population are £3,000 better off a year in real terms since 1997.’
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