Nursery Management Today: Vitamin Angels UK teams up with NDNA to tackle childhood food insecurity

Vitamin Angels UK has launched its efforts to tackle childhood food insecurity in partnership with National Day Nurseries Association (NDNA).

With 1 in 4 children in the UK at risk of food insecurity*, the charity is working with NDNA to deliver free weekly nutrient-dense supplementary foods to six nurseries in England containing fruits, vegetables and protein-rich foods.

Over four hundred children from low income families are benefiting from the scheme to help improve child diet quality. The nurseries are in Manchester, Grimsby, Darlington, Scunthorpe, Wolverhampton and Leominster.

The packages are designed to contribute to a quality diet that is consistent with the Voluntary Food and Drink Guidelines for early years Settings in England.

Dr. Kristen Hurley, senior vice president for nutrition at Vitamin Angels UK said: “With 1 in 4 children in the UK at risk of food insecurity, we’re facing a crisis and we need to act now. As cited by the British Medical Journal, there are growing concerns that the Covid-19 pandemic has exacerbated nutritional problems associated with food insecurity including micronutrient deficiencies. Last year’s National Food Strategy Review indicated that children ate fewer fruits and vegetables during lockdown – and that this effect was heightened among children living in low-income households.”

Vitamin Angels UK is launching National Childhood Nutrition Day and a drive for donations from the general public on June 9, 2021. By the end of the year, the charity hopes to broaden the reach of its supplementary food program to more nurseries in the UK.

Before launching the programme with Vitamin Angels UK, NDNA spoke to several nurseries and they were surprised to find that so many were in need of support with offering healthy foods to children.

Purnima Tanuku OBE, NDNA’s chief exec, explained: “Healthy and nutritious meals and snacks are really important for children’s development and learning in early years settings. The challenge is that the current hourly childcare funding rates do not even cover the costs of delivering high quality care and education, let alone pay for healthy food on top.

“As a result, many nurseries are really struggling to make ends meet, particularly in deprived areas where more children take up funded hours.  We’re very proud of our programme in partnership with Vitamin Angels UK because we’re able to provide so many nutrient-dense foods for children, who might not otherwise have the same access to these options that they need for healthy growth and development.”

Michelle Shaw, nursery manager at Central Daycare in Grimsby, said: “It’s challenging to see some of the struggles our parents go through. A lot of them are out of work and are single parents struggling to feed their children.

“With the help of Vitamin Angels UK, we’re able to give fresh fruit and vegetables to the children as snacks throughout their day at nursery. If the parents choose to give their child a packed lunch,  we offer leaflets containing guidance on healthy contents. If we find a child’s packed lunch has lots of high sugar and high fat items, we offer the child a healthier alternative.”

*1 in 4 children live in poverty in the UK and are therefore at risk of food insecurity ––2

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