It’s been a couple of months since the Children’s Future Food Inquiry launched its final report and children’s #Right2Food Charter in late April. So, has anything been done to address the issues raised? I invited Pandora Haydon, Communications Manager at the Food Foundation, to outline what the Inquiry asked for, what has happened since then and what they expect to come out of the Parliamentary Backbench Debate led by Frank Field MP today.
When the Children’s Future Food Inquiry launched its final report in April 25th 2019, its priority was to call attention to the policy recommendations put forward in the children’s #Right2Food Charter. Written in consultation with the Inquiry’s fifteen young Food Ambassadors (aged between 10 and 20 years old), the Charter draws on young people’s experience of and response to food insecurity in the UK, identifying key areas for improvement and proposing solutions to the problems they feel are most urgent.
The young people’s key recommendation is for a new, independent Children’s Food Watchdog. This body would monitor and improve children’s food in each of the four nations, and crucially would have children and young people involved in its leadership. The Watchdog’s first task would be to undertake a full economic costing of the rest of the policy proposals made in the Charter.
Bearing in mind that recent reviews of poverty and food insecurity have been largely dismissed by the Government (the UK assessment delivered by the UN Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights, for example), it’s encouraging to see demonstrable cross-party parliamentary support for the #Right2Food Charter’s recommendations.
The London launch itself was attended by Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Children and Families Nadhim Zahawi MP, and earlier this month he sent out a letter to headteachers across England urging them to look closely at the Charter and tackle some of the issues raised, including the absence of accessible free drinking water in school. Since the subsequent launches in Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland, Kerry McCarthy MP has led a Westminster Hall Debate on the Charter, Theresa May committed to looking carefully at it during PMQs, and today, Frank Field MP will be discussing the Charter during his Backbench Debate.
In the immediate aftermath of the Charter’s launch, the Department for Education began work with us to explore the recommendations and have promised a formal response by September
We hope the scope of a government response to the Charter is addressed during today’s debate, and that questions are asked about when the Watchdog will be in place, what its remit will be, and how the Government intends to involve the young Food Ambassadors in the next steps. The Healthy Start programme is a key point of discussion in the report – we’d like to hear Parliament hold the Government to account on the consultation promised in Chapter 2 of the Childhood Obesity Strategy when it was published.
The Inquiry is making significant progress in terms of meaningful policy and practice change, but the new food insecurity figures for London alone – published today by the GLA – show there’s a great deal more to be done. As the Food Foundation’s Executive Director Anna Taylor has commented, “Food insecurity is hindering the growth of our children, crippling their confidence and making it impossible to learn and develop. The young people we spoke to are calling for a new, independent Children’s Food Watchdog: it’s time we worked with them to poverty proof their futures and uphold every child’s #Right2Food.”