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Retailers must implement better measures to protect children from food insecurity, says The Food Foundation

young woman with glasses smiling
4 min read
AUTHOR: Fiona Holland
Unhappy father and his son eating cornflakes in morning

Retailers in the UK must do more to help families provide their children with heathy food amidst the cost of living crisis, stresses The Food Foundation.

Nearly a quarter of households with children reported experiencing food insecurity in January this year according to the charity’s most recent survey. This percentage has increased by nearly 15% since January 2021.

The survey revealed food insecure households are more likely to cut down on purchases of nutritious foods, with 57% more likely to cut down on buying fruit in comparison to 11% of food secure households and 42% more likely to cut down on vegetable purchases in comparison to 6%. Some 54% of food insecure households are also less likely to buy fish.

Lower income households already don’t consume high amounts of these foods as they can’t afford them, explains the Food Foundation. As inflation continues to impact consumer shopping habits, dietary inequalities and their impact on health will also increase, it says.

According to the survey, parents would like to see retailers do more to make it easier to provide their children with healthier food. Some 87% would like to see more offers and promotions on staple foods like bread and milk, while the same number also support the idea of having a range of fruit and vegetables available at discounted prices.

Nearly 80% would also like the healthiest children’s yoghurts and cereals to be the cheapest option and want to see budget food ranges available in every store, including local and convenience stores.

Some 64% also support the idea of retailers offering a lunchbox meal deal to make it easier to buy enough items to make a healthy lunch for their children. Over half of parents also said they would like to see healthy meal recipe ideas available at the checkout.

As a result of its findings, The Food Foundation has asked supermarkets to do “all they can” to help very low-income families afford a nutritious diet. It has also asked retailers to support all families ­– who are having to change their food purchasing habits as a result of increasing costs – to be able to access healthy and sustainable food and drink options.

Alongside the survey, the charity also published a ‘Kids Food Guarantee’ roadmap to advise retailers on the steps they should prioritise to make sure all children can still eat well during the present crisis.

These recommended actions include the following:

  • At least a week’s worth of 5 a day items – whether fresh, frozen or tinne­d – should be competitively priced and accessible at all stores
  • Multibuy deals should be available on carbohydrate staples and not HFSS foods, and wholegrain and/or 50:50 wheat products should be at price parity or a lower price than the refined equivalent
  • Budget ranges should be available not just at every supermarket but also local and convenience stores
  • Stores should provide own-brand formula and/or protect the price of first infant formulas from inflation
  • The healthiest products should be available in the yoghurts and boxed breakfast cereal categories, which are currently responsible for the largest sugar intake in children, according to the charity
  • Provide weekly lunchbox items that comply with UK School Food standards, making up five lunches that can be bought via a multibuy deal
  • Finally, retailers should advocate for the expansion of, and promote and communicate the Healthy Start scheme, as well as ensure that a larger percentage of promotional and marketing material focuses on healthier and more sustainable staple food products, such as fruits, vegetables, wholegrains, and pulses

On top of its call for retailers to make healthier food options the most affordable, The Food Foundation is also asking for the expansion of the provision of free school meals to all children whose families are on Universal Credit, and for the Government to set a minimum wage and benefit level at an amount that accounts for the cost of a healthy diet.

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