As October half term has begun, this week Food Portsmouth releases findings from a children’s holiday food project ran during the summer
During the six week summer holiday, Food Portsmouth rolled out a holiday lunch programme in partnership with six Portsmouth City Council Adventure Playground sites. As well as ensuring that children could enjoy a hot lunch, the project also collected some interesting, and sometimes shocking, information.
The study found that for many children, lunch was the first meal of the day during the summer holidays; 45% of children asked stated that they hadn’t eaten breakfast that morning. However, 79% of children HAD eaten lunch the day before.
Eating breakfast is an important meal at any age, helping provide us with energy for the day ahead so we can concentrate, keep cravings in check, and have the energy to go about our daily tasks. To discover that almost half of children asked hadn’t had breakfast that morning is a concern, particularly if this trend continues into term time; impacting on learning.
The study also found that 33% of children had not eaten any vegetables the previous day, but 39% had drunk a sugary soft drink that morning when asked. This highlights a worrying trend that children are not eating the fresh and nutritious diet they need to grow healthily, and instead consuming too much sugar in the form of soft drinks.
Almost the same number of children did express a concern about ‘not eating healthy enough foods’ compared to ‘I don’t get worried about food’ in any way. This shows that children are perhaps aware about what a healthy diet may be, but the City has more work to do around turning this knowledge into action.
One playground worker noted that as well as preventing children missing a meal at lunchtime, the holiday lunch project also "had a positive social contribution, wherein they all enjoyed sitting down together to eat, sometimes with the older children helping the younger children if they struggled.”
Food Portsmouth Co-ordinator, Megan Saunders said that: “We’re very grateful for the donations of food and volunteer time that the Holiday Lunch project received this Summer as this made it possible to begin to understand eating habits outside of school time amongst children and provides a snapshot of where improvements need to be made”.
For many families who may access free school meals during term time, providing those extra meals during school holidays can be a real struggle. With October half term break speeding by, and then the Christmas break quickly following, the thought of when and what our children are eating during holidays is something that we all should be aware of.