Youngsters head to Westminster to challenge food poverty
Young Scots campaigning against food poverty are taking their case to Westminster, as a new report revealed a quarter of children who do not receive free school meals sometimes go without lunch because of a lack of cash.
That was the key finding of a survey of 11 to 18-year-olds across the UK by Childwise, which specialises in research involving children and young people.
Nine young “food ambassadors” from across Britain – including two from Scotland – are to speak out against food poverty at the Children’s Future Food Inquiry.
An estimated 4.1 million children across the UK are living in poverty, with the “food ambassadors – who are all aged between 10 and 20 – set to raise their experiences with MPs and peers at Westminster.
They include Aaron Ross, 20, from the Easterhouse area of Glasgow, who wants it to be easier and cheaper for young people to make healthy choices.
He recalled “things were hard” for him growing up in a single parent household, and said: “I rarely had time to eat in the mornings because my mum was at work, so it was a case of what I had time to grab.
“It was hard to eat healthily. At lunch time it was quicker to get chips or go to McDonald’s, healthy options were not that easy to reach. At least with takeaways it was hot when you got it and it was cheap.”
He added: “I want to challenge the huge number of fast food outlets in our community. Why do they offer children lunchtime specials? Why are they on every street corner, a stone’s throw from school gates and promoted on our bus tickets?
“We are always told about the important role food can play in our health. If we are the generation with lots of choices then why can it feel like there is only one?”
His sister Savannah Ross, 16, said she is passionate about the issue “because many people struggle on a day-to-day basis”.
She added: “I want to show that many people live different lives and life is not as easy as everyone makes it out to be.”
Actor Dame Emma Thomson, who is a Children’s Future Food Inquiry ambassador, said: “It beggars belief that in a country as wealthy as the UK so many children are not only living in poverty, well below the breadline, but actually going hungry – especially in the holidays.
“I am truly ashamed when I consider our hungry children and am determined that we demand real action from the Government, instead of empty promises, so that every child in the UK has enough good food to eat regardless of what their parents earn, where they go to school or where they live.”
Scotland’s Commissioner for Children and Young People, Bruce Adamson, said: “Growing up in poverty needs to be recognised as one of the most significant human rights issues facing children in Scotland and we need a sustained, systematic and human rights-based approach to tackle and eradicate it.
“It affects every aspect of a child’s life, including their educational attainment and mental and physical health.
“Our work on food insecurity shows not only how aware children and young people are of the limitation imposed by poverty but that they have ideas of possible solutions, if only those in power listen to them.”