Free healthy meals should be provided all year round for children from the poorest families to promote better eating habits, the Institute for Public Policy Research has said.
A new report by the think-tank has revealed a significant obesity gap among children living in the most deprived areas compared with those living in the least deprived areas. Almost 20% of children from the poorest families are suffering obesity compared to 13% of those in the least deprived areas.
IPPR said there was evidence to suggest low income families often resorted to cheaper food which was energy dense but less nutritious.
It has called for the government to provide free meals not just in term time but at holiday clubs for 850,000 children who would otherwise be left without support for six weeks during the summer. This would cost up to £50m but if current take-up rates were maintained, it could cost £40m, it said.
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. “We shouldn’t be blaming poorer parents – we should be helping them meet the cost of healthy alternatives.”
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