Continuing our theme of ‘Giving children the best start in life by avoiding the damaging impact of hunger on health, attainment and opportunity’, Elli Kontoravvdis of Nourish Scotland reflects on the issue from the perspective of children themselves.
Thinking back to when you were a child you may remember that children understand exactly what’s going on in the world around them – household food insecurity is no exception.
Nourish Scotland together with the Children and Young People’s Commissioner Scotland and Home-Start UK-Scotland recently undertook a small partnership project listening to what children think about food insecurity. The resulting report, ‘Living is More Important Than Surviving’, (Oct 2016) is an important reminder than children and young people’s views are valuable and yet often overlooked.
The children we listened to were between 5 and 11 years old, and had a confident understanding of what a child’s food needs, the barriers to having those needs met, and what could be done to overcome those barriers.
Thinking specifically about barriers – children identified money as the most significant reason why some children may not have the food they need.
Children were clear that there are social and emotional consequences to food insecurity for both parents and children. In particular children agreed that children would “feel upset that their parents are stressed and so they feel stressed”.
Most emotively, children felt that other children would feel that “they can do something”. This really touches on the long-term impact of food insecurity – children internalise the household stress and anxiety of struggling to eat a nutritious diet and often limit their intake to alleviate the pressure on others. The social and emotional consequences of this certainly outlive the physical experience.
But this same time this willingness to be involved should be celebrated – children want to be involved in shaping the world around them, and the children we listened to had no shortage of ideas for how to solve food insecurity.
The suggestions ranged from redistributing money: “Every single tax raised in one week should be donated to everyone in Scotland that’s poor”, to making healthy food more affordable: “If you can make the veggies and the good things you’re meant to eat lower, then people can know that they can buy them”.
Thinking about how politicians in particular could be better at listening to children, “listen to people’s ideas and see if they can get all of them because there might be different ideas and maybe they could use them all and combine them in to one big idea”.
At Nourish Scotland and the Scottish Food Coalition we echo this thought – we are encouraging the Scottish Government to listen to lots of people’s ideas, including children’s, and combine them in one big idea – the forthcoming Good Food Nation Bill.
The Good Food Nation Bill is a unique opportunity for Scotland to be a European leader in food governance by taking a framework and rights-based approach to food.
Policy & Campaigns Manager, Nourish Scotland