In 24 hours, 2200 RCPCH members have signed an open letter to Prime Minister Boris Johnson, calling for the UK Government to match the pledge made by the Welsh and Scottish Governments, and the Northern Ireland Executive to provide food vouchers to cover school holidays for children from low-income backgrounds. More than 800 paediatricians signed the letter within an hour of circulation.
The letter argues that childhood hunger is an issue that should transcend politics, and that good nutrition is at the heart of health, wellbeing and development for children and young people. It notes that without it, children’s health outcomes worsen, and with that, so do their life chances.
Every day, we see the impact of hunger and malnutrition in our work as paediatricians. It is not unusual for us to care for children who don’t have enough to eat or who don’t have access to a substantial meal outside of what is provided in school. Good nutrition is at the heart of health, wellbeing and development for children and young people. Without it, children’s health outcomes worsen, and with that, so do their life chances
With over four million children in the UK living in poverty and the current pandemic entrenching this reality, children desperately need government support. The letter says that while food vouchers will not solve the problem of child poverty, they do offer a short-term remedy for children that don’t have enough to eat.
Professor Russell Viner, President of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health said:
I've rarely seen such anger among our members. We care for children who don't have enough to eat. We see far too many of them. It is heartbreaking that it has become a normal part of our jobs and hunger is all too common for millions of families in the UK. There is an opportunity to put this right. It is pointless to talk about levelling up the country, an ambition which we support, while refusing to offer temporary relief to children and families.
Dr Max Davie, Officer for Health Improvement at the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health said:
We’re a rich country. This isn’t about money, it’s about making sure people have food to eat, and it’s about doing the right thing for children who need a hand up. We shouldn’t have to fight for food vouchers when we’re in the middle of a pandemic.
Dr Liz Whittaker, Consultant Paediatrician at St. Marys Hospital, London said:
Household food insecurity is linked to long-term negative consequences for health, educational outcomes and future income. Missing meals isn’t just about going hungry on an individual day, it has a lasting impact on a young person’s life. Aside from the fact that it is wrong to see children go hungry, it is impossible to justify any argument that this saves the state money.
The open letter pays tribute to Marcus Rashford for his influential and inspiring advocacy on behalf of children and young people. RCPCH is proud to support his campaign.
Mark Byrne, Head of Media, 077 4523 4909, firstname.lastname@example.org