New Government scheme aimed at tackling child hunger could be a giant boost for alleviating food poverty in Britain

Experts from Loughborough University have published two papers which give new insights into efforts to tackle children’s food insecurity.

  • Up to three million children are thought to be under threat of hunger during school holidays
  • Holiday clubs are vital for providing nutrition for at risk youngsters but there is a lack of research to support and evaluate them 
  • Projects that address a range of social issues, including hunger, could be the most effective model
  • Department for Education has recently invested £9million in holiday clubs around the UK

EXPERTS from Loughborough University have published two papers which give new insights into efforts to tackle children’s food insecurity.

The first, carried out by Dr Clare Holley and Dr Carolynne Mason from the School of Sport and Exercise Health Sciences (SSEHS), found that there was no consistency in the way interventions which tackle children’s food insecurity are delivered or evaluated.

The second study found that holiday clubs which offered food created a range of opportunities for youngsters, but that they also face challenges in doing so. For example, children can experience social interactions around food and gain confidence with trying new foods, and free food may also promote positive behaviour. However, clubs experience challenges with resource constraints. The work was carried out by Loughborough’s Dr Clare HolleyDr Carolynne Mason and Dr Emma Haycraft.

It comes as the Government plans to implement a new £9million scheme this summer to improve the diets of millions of youngsters across Britain who are at serious risk of malnutrition during school holidays, due to the absence of healthy school meals.

One of the charities to receive a £1million share of the money is StreetGames – with whom Loughborough has a long-running partnership on its Fit and Fed project.

It will use the grant to deliver new holiday clubs to children from disadvantaged communities in the North East.

“StreetGames are leading the way when it comes to delivering holiday clubs which tackle child hunger,” said Dr Holley.

“The investment from the Department for Education is a real accolade, because it shows confidence in the way the charity has been performing.

“Whilst there is evidence that interventions can improve healthy eating outcomes such as children’s fruit and vegetable consumption, previous studies were only focused on very small interventions.

“What is needed is more information about more ambitious interventions, exactly like the new Department for Education schemes, in order to ensure that these schemes are maximally beneficial to the children who attend them.”

The Loughborough team plans to find out more about how holiday club staff go about feeding children by evaluating the StreetGames project.

The aim is to find the best examples of successful practices which help children to have positive experiences with food, and to develop healthy eating habits in the longer-term.

The latest paper, by Dr Holley, Dr Mason, and Dr Haycraft, Opportunities and Challenges Arising from Holiday Clubs Tackling Children’s Hunger in the UK: Pilot Club Leader Perspectiveshas been published in the journal Nutrients.

Their recent paper looking at the evidence from across developed countries, A Systematic Review of the Evaluation of Interventions to Tackle Children’s Food Insecurity, has been published in the journal Current Nutrition Reports.