Health and nutrition charity Vitamin Angels UK is launching National Childhood Nutrition Day (June 9) to raise awareness that 1 in 4 children in the UK are at risk of food insecurity* and to try and broaden their support to those most vulnerable.
Working in partnership with the National Day Nurseries Association (NDNA), Vitamin Angels UK currently delivers free weekly nutrient-dense supplementary foods to six nurseries in England containing fruits, vegetables and protein-rich foods.
Over four hundred children from low income families are benefiting from the scheme to help improve child diet quality. The nurseries are in Manchester, Grimsby, Darlington, Scunthorpe, Wolverhampton and Leominster.
People are being invited to mark National Childhood Nutrition Day by sharing social content on Facebook and Instagram, in which they quiz their children on their knowledge of different healthy foods and then post their amusing answers.
They are also invited to add a “donate now” button to their posts with money raised going towards Vitamin Angels UK’s future outreach. To participate, tag @VitaminAngels.
Dr. Kristen Hurley is senior vice president for nutrition at Vitamin Angels UK. She said: “With 1 in 4 children in the UK at risk of food insecurity, we’re facing a crisis and we need to act now. As cited by the British Medical Journal, there are growing concerns that the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated nutritional problems associated with food insecurity including micronutrient deficiencies. Last year’s National Food Strategy Review indicated that children ate fewer fruits and vegetables during lockdown – and that this effect was heightened among children living in low-income households.
“By the end of 2021 we aim to broaden the reach of our supplementary food program to more nurseries in the UK.”
Before launching the programme with Vitamin Angels UK, NDNA spoke to several nurseries and they were surprised to find that so many were in need of support with offering healthy foods to children.
Purnima Tanuku OBE, NDNA’s chief executive, explained: “Healthy and nutritious meals and snacks are really important for children’s development and learning in early years settings. The challenge is that the current hourly childcare funding rates do not even cover the costs of delivering high quality care and education, let alone pay for healthy food on top.
“As a result, many nurseries are really struggling to make ends meet, particularly in deprived areas where more children take up funded hours. We’re very proud of our programme in partnership with Vitamin Angels UK because we’re able to provide so many nutrient-dense foods for children, who might not otherwise have the same access to these options that they need for healthy growth and development.”
Michelle Shaw, Nursery Manager at Central Daycare in Grimsby, said: “It’s challenging to see some of the struggles our parents go through. A lot of them are out of work and are single parents struggling to feed their children. With the help of Vitamin Angels UK, we’re able to give fresh fruit and vegetables to the children as snacks throughout their day at nursery. If the parents choose to give their child a packed lunch, we offer leaflets containing guidance on healthy contents. If we find a child’s packed lunch has lots of high sugar and high fat items, we offer the child a healthier alternative.”
More information on how people can take part in the National Childhood Nutrition Day awareness campaign and make a donation can be found at www.vitaminangels.org.uk/childhood-nutrition-day, where you can also download a nutritional resource to share with your family, Nourish magazine.