Child Poverty Consultation Response
In August 2016 the Scottish Government launched their consultation on the Child Poverty Bill. The Bill, which will be introduced next year, will build on the Scottish Government’s existing work, and will form part of the governments overall approach to tackling poverty and inequality in Scotland. The Scottish Government has set out its ambition to eradicate child poverty and this Bill will set the framework for making progress towards this goal. This is the Food for Life team’s response to the Child Poverty Consultation.
We agree that the Scottish Government should include in statute an ambition to eradicate child poverty. We welcome statutory income targets. However, the multi-faceted nature of child poverty must not be lost, which is why a robust child poverty measurement framework is vital. The role of food should not be underestimated in achieving the outcomes outlined in the 2014-17 Strategy, to be built upon in the proposed bill. Not only that, addressing food issues can deliver on key government objectives such as inclusive economic growth and contribute to the delivery of a number of National Indicators. In addition, it is vitally important that links are made between the Child Poverty Bill and the proposed Good Food Nation Bill.
A commitment to addressing food issues will help maximise household resources, improve children’s wellbeing and life chances and ensure that children live in well-designed sustainable places. It should also be noted that there is clear evidence of a persistent gap in educational attainment between pupils from the richest and poorest households in Scotland. Low attainment has a long-term effect on job prospects. Research demonstrates a positive link between food and educational outcomes. Addressing food issues can help close the attainment gap, thereby improving the life chances of children living in poverty.
We define good food as:
Food that’s good for your health – lots of fruit and vegetables, fish and wholegrains, a bit less but better quality meat, and a lot less processed food. Good food is even better when it’s shared.
Food that’s good for the environment – it’s in season, it’s sustainably produced, has low-climate impact and high welfare standards
Food that’s good for the economy – it’s grown by local producers, it’s prepared by skilled and knowledgeable people, and it supports a thriving economy.
Crucially, good food can and should be affordable and accessible to all with strong leadership from government. We would like to see indicators relating to good food included within the framework under pockets, prospects and places.
We understand that household food insecurity (HFI) data is not collected in Scotland, or elsewhere in the UK, and that food bank data collection systems do not monitor household conditions or practices in a consistent way. However, anecdotal evidence suggests that levels of HFI are on the increase. Research has shown that poorer households spend a greater proportion of their household income on food and non-alcoholic drink compared to those with above average incomes. We would ask that the government develops a robust measure for HFI. Household food insecurity can result in children living in poverty experiencing dietary inequalities that impact on their health outcomes and life chances, it is only by understanding the extent and nature of this issue can it be addressed.
We welcome that indicators for good health and fruit and veg consumption will be retained within the existing measurement framework. We would ask that the principles of Good Food Nation are applied to this indicator, by ensuring that these fruit and vegetables are local and sustainable.
We recommend that there is an explicit reference to the national performance indicator target to increase the percentage of children aged 2-15 years whose Body Mass Index lies within a healthy range (between the 2nd and 85th percentile of the UK growth reference charts). There is a correlation between obesity and levels of deprivation as a result of inequalities experienced by children living in poverty. Falling levels of obesity and associated undernutrition amongst the most deprived children will indicate the government’s progress in eradicating child poverty.
While there is inconclusive evidence on the existence of food deserts in Scotland, there is considerable variation in access to a predefined basket of ‘healthy foods’ at an affordable price, particularly in areas of high deprivation. We acknowledge that the government has taken measures to address this issue with Scottish Grocers Federation (SGF) Healthy Living Programme and Beyond the School Gate. We ask that government provides more support to local authorities in their attempts to deliver on these principles. We would welcome a Places indicator that acknowledges the importance of access to good food in tackling the inequalities experienced by children living in poverty. As part of our Sustainable Food Cities programme, a series of indicators is being developed that will enable measurement of issues such as this. We ask that when this work is finalised in December 2016 that these indicators are considered for inclusion in the Child Poverty measurement framework.
The Food for Life Scotland team works to make good food the easy choice for everyone. We make sure good food is not only on the menu, it is part of the conversation and a way of life in schools, hospitals, care homes, workplaces and cities. Good food holds the key to healthier people, a healthier economy and a healthier environment.