What Can We Do to Stop the Childhood Obesity Catastrophe?

Food and unhealthy eating is a regular feature on my blogs because what is happening is really scary. One in five children are obese and apparently 11% of toddlers are obese with a 40 to 70% chance they will become obese adults; it’s highest among poor children. So not only do poor children face an uphill struggle to succeed in education they are also blighted with poor health as well.

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In the 1920s and 1930s at LEYF (then called Westminster Health Society) we were running classes to reduce the numbers of malnourished children by helping parents prepare and cook healthy meals which were nutritious and affordable. It was called Mothercraft and you can still see signs of that 1930s history on the front of some buildings which are now nurseries or Children Centres.

In those days people could not afford good quality protein and fruit and sadly, ninety years later, we face a similar situation. Maybe now the children are not as hungry because we can feed them with sugary, fatty, cheap alternatives which staves off the hunger but the cost is long term poor health. That is not to say  that some children aren’t actually hungry. Reports such as the London Mayor’s Report A Zero Hunger City: Tackling Food Poverty in London and the work done by Carmel McConnell at Magic Breakfast suggests that many children are hungry.

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So along with caring and educating our children, struggling to keep our heads above water, we now need to design a preventative approach to try and stem a tide of ill health and obesity. Remember in ten years’ time some of these children will want to become our apprentices. Unlike Lord Sugar you can’t just fire them if they cannot do the job because they have inherited ill health from being obese children.

So where can we start? Ensure your approach to food is healthy and well researched using guidance such as Children Food Trust Standards. Support your chef to complete the accredited CACHE Level 2 Diploma in Food Production and Cooking in Early Years (QCF), which I am very pleased to have developed. Make physical health and well-being a core element of your curriculum.

Then we need to have a conversation with ourselves. Let’s acknowledge we are not always the healthiest or in the best shape. Many of us carry quite a few pounds in excess weight. Personally, I have just bought a book to show me how I might stop turning into an apple. Yes, I realise I am not a computer nor Gwyneth’s daughter but I see signs of a round tummy (also known as a muffin top). OK, do I really need a book to tell me to dump the 4 o’clock Hummigbird cupcakes?

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So as an employer shall I reinstate our Monday Weight Watchers weigh-ins? Should we invite the Kundalini Yoga teacher back, will we link into Slimming World? The fact is we need a whole range of responses and we need them now.

So please join our conversation about this. I am cordially inviting you to our annual lecture called ‘Can Social Enterprise help stop the childhood obesity catastrophe?’ where we will hear from Linda Baston Pitt, LaLa Manners and Carmel McConnell and a representative from Infant and Toddler Forum. We may also be joined by a gold winning Olympian athlete but this is to be confirmed…

We look forward to seeing as many of you there as possible.

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