With 3.9 million children, and 46 per cent of children from black and minority ethnic groups, currently living in poverty in the UK, the National Day Nurseries Association (NDNA) and the charity Vitamin Angels UK are aiming to step up their efforts to tackle food insecurity.
More than 1,000 children from low-income families are already benefiting from Vitamin Angels UK and the NDNA’s revolutionary nutritional food scheme, which delivers free weekly nutrient-dense supplementary foods to twelve nurseries across the UK.
NDNA’s summer sustainability survey 2021, reported 46 per cent of nurseries operating in the 20 per cent most deprived areas in the UK expect to make a financial loss. As a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, the average nursery has lost more than £26,000 over the past year due to absences or closures.
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More families face food insecurity.
Ann Micka, senior program manager at Vitamin Angels UK, said: ‘With the rising cost of living including increased food and energy prices, more families face food insecurity in the UK. This was already a huge issue as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic which according to the British Medical Journal, exacerbated nutritional problems associated with food insecurity including an increased risk of micronutrient deficiencies.
‘These issues, coupled with the crisis nurseries face to cover running costs and the increasing price of food means it’s more important than ever to provide additional support to those children most at risk.
‘Children from Manchester, Grimsby, Darlington, Scunthorpe, Wolverhampton and Leominster have benefited from our supplementary food program for years. We are pleased to have recently broadened the scheme to reach more nutritionally vulnerable children in London, Sowerby Bridge, and Middlesbrough too.’
‘Nurseries are a vital source of nutritious meals’
Purnima Tanuku OBE, chief executive of National Day Nurseries Association (NDNA) said: ‘For many children in areas of deprivation, their nurseries are a vital source of nutritious meals and healthy snacks. These can make a huge difference to our youngest children’s development at this crucial stage of their lives. Unfortunately, according to our research with nurseries, 46 per cent of providers in areas of deprivation are operating at a loss.
‘A larger proportion (84 per cent compared with the national average of 79 per cent) also say their two-year-old funding is not sufficient to deliver places. These nurseries tend to have more children eligible for these places, so it has more of an impact on their sustainability. This means the vast majority are finding it harder and harder to be able to put healthy meals on the table.’
Before launching the programme with Vitamin Angels UK, NDNA spoke to several nurseries and found that many were in need of support with offering healthy foods to children, and given the rate of inflation and the cost of living pressures, the need for intervention is even greater.
Ms Purnima said: the work of Vitamin Angels UK was ‘particularly important during this challenging time of rising food prices and soaring energy costs’.
‘We know how difficult it is for parents to make ends meet – but also how tough it is for nurseries to be able to continue offering children healthy meals and snacks as these costs rise. The partnership between Vitamin Angels UK and these nurseries is vital for them and the children they care for.’
Vitamin Angels UK work towards the relief of sickness and preservation of health by providing or assisting in the provision of nutrients and services for the benefit of mothers and children and to work to end malnutrition and its consequences among at-risk, hard-to-reach populations, focusing on young children under five years of age, and women of reproductive age, including pregnant women and new mothers.
*Photo by Kathy Oxtoby