Children's Right2Food Dashboard

Here you'll find an interactive data dashboard exploring children's experience with food in the UK.

Government Programmes

This section of the dashboard looks at two key children’s food policies and how well these are reaching disadvantaged children. These policies – Healthy Start and Free School Meals – are in place to help support children in poverty to be able to afford and access healthy, nutritious food.

Free School Meals

Free School Meals
The Free School Meals (FSM) Scheme is a Government programme available to school-aged children in families who receive qualifying benefits and have an annual income of £7,400 or less before benefits. It entitles them to a free school meal worth approximately £2.30 in England during term time.

Universal Infant Free School Meals is a programme in which all children in Reception, Year 1 and Year 2 are entitled to a free school meal (not covered in this dashboard).

Country: England

Healthy Start

‍‍About Healthy Start: Healthy Start is a means-tested scheme for low income pregnant women and young children, providing vitamins and vouchers which can be used for foods to support basic nutrition, including milk, fruit and veg. It is available to pregnant women and children under 4 years old who are receipt of qualifying benefits.

Country: Data presented is for England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Scotland report on the number of applications for Best Start Foods (the Scottish equivalent of Healthy Start), but not on the number of eligible people or uptake. We are therefore unable to report on this.

Source: NHS Healthy Start

 

Technical note:
Population size is calculated from ONS population estimates mid-2019 (0-3-year-olds) and PHE’s Surveillance of influenza and other respiratory viruses in the UK, Winter 2019-20 (pregnant women – Table 5).

Percentage living in poverty is estimated based on percentage of children living in poverty (AHC) and percentage of adults living in poverty (AHC). These figures come from the “Households below average income” statistics published by DWP for the 2019/20 financial year. HBAI estimates are based on the Family Resources Survey which has a sample of 19,000 UK households. Income After Housing Costs is derived by deducting housing costs, including: rent, water rates and charges, mortgage interest payments, and structural insurance premiums. Full methodology can be seen here.

Healthy Start data are available on the NHS Healthy Start website. “Eligible” is defined as those claimants showing as eligible to claim for Healthy Start i.e. are in receipt of specified benefits. “Signed up for Healthy Start” refers to those classified as “Entitled” which is defined as those claimants that are confirmed as having a validated application form/claim and therefore vouchers have been issued to them. Healthy Start data are collected every 4 weeks. For England, Wales and Northern Ireland, the data refer to Cycle 232 which is the period between 01/02/2021 and 26/02/2021.

Impact on Children

This section of the dashboard looks at the prevalence of children experiencing poverty and food insecurity – factors which impair children’s access to healthy diets. It also presents data on the impact of poor diet on children’s health, looking specifically at type 2 diabetes, dental decay, weight and growth. These impacts are all largely preventable.

Food insecurity

 

Why it matters: Being food secure means being sure of your ability to secure enough food of sufficient quality and quantity to be able to stay healthy and participate in society. Food insecurity has varying degrees of severity. Early stages involve worrying about whether there will be enough food, followed by compromising quality, variety and quantity of food. Going without food and experiencing hunger are the most severe stages. Children who are exposed to food insecurity are more likely to face adverse health outcomes and developmental risk. Food hardship among children also predicts impaired academic performance, and is positively associated with experiencing shame, and behavioural problems.

Country: England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland

Source: Food Foundation commissioned surveys

 

Technical note:
Data on food insecurity have been calculated from data obtained by YouGov surveys commissioned by The Food Foundation. The technical document on these surveys can be seen here.

The data refer to the follow surveys:
- First 2 weeks of lockdown – Second survey in series. Recall period: 2 weeks. Date of data collection: 7/3/20-9/3/20.
- April 2020 – Third survey in series. Recall period: 1 month. Date of data collection: 24/4/20-29/4/20. 3)
- May 2020 – Fourth survey in series. Recall period: 1 month. Date of data collection: 14/5/20-17/5/20. 4)
- June 2020 – Fifth survey in series. Recall period: 1 month. Date of data collection: 6/7/20-8/7/20. 5)
- August 2020 – Sixth survey in series. Recall period: 1 month. Date of data collection: 24/8/20-1/9/20.
- January 2021 – Seventh survey in series. Recall period: 1 month. Date of data collection: 29/1/21-2/2/21

Poverty

Why it matters: Living in poverty greatly increases the risk of food insecurity. A healthy diet is unaffordable for households with insufficient incomes.

Country: United Kingdom

Source: End Child Poverty Coalition

 

Technical note:
Maps data on child poverty are from End Child Poverty Coalition. Households are living in poverty if their household income (adjusted to account for household size) is less than 60% of the median. All poverty rates for the England map are calculated on an after-housing costs (AHC) basis and shown at constituency level. Data is from 2019/20. Full methodology can be seen here. Data on ethnicity are from the “Households below average income” statistics published by DWP for the 2019/20 financial year. HBAI estimates are based on the Family Resources Survey which has a sample of 19,000 UK households. Data on time series are from the same source. Poverty is defined as less than 60% of the median after housing costs (AHC).

Overweight & Obesity

Why it matters: Obesity is one of the biggest public health problems facing the UK. Living with overweight and obesity in childhood increases the risk of a number of health conditions in later life including type 2 diabetes and heart disease, reducing the quality of life of the individual, and having a huge impact on and cost to our public health service. The causes of overweight and obesity are multifactorial but the inability to afford nutritious food and unhealthy food environments are known contributing factors.

Country: Most data provided are for England only. The map shows data for England, Wales and Scotland. Northern Ireland use different definitions of overweight and obesity and therefore are not comparable to the other three nations.

Source:
- England: National Child Measurement Programme 2020
- Wales: Child Measurement Programme for Wales 2018/19
- Scotland: Body Mass Index of Primary 1 Children in Scotland 2019/20

 

Technical note: 
England – Data on overweight and obesity are from the National Child Measurement Programme conducted by Public Health England from the school year 2019/20 (published October 2020). The figures cover children in Reception (aged 4-5 years) and Year 6 (aged 10-11 years) in mainstream state-maintained schools in England. The overall national participation rate was 95% in 2018/19 and has increased over time. The BMI classification is derived by calculating the child’s BMI centile and assigning the BMI classification based on the following thresholds:
- Overweight is defined as a BMI centile greater than or equal to the 85th centile but less than the 95th centile (i.e. have overweight but not obesity).
- Obesity is defined as a BMI centile greater than or equal to the 95th centile.
Further details on the NCMP methodology can be seen here.

Wales – Data on overweight and obesity are from the Child Measurement Programme for Wales conducted by Public Health Wales from the school year 2018/2019. The figures include children in Reception (aged 4-5 years). Overweight and obesity are defined in the same way as for England.

Scotland – Data on overweight and obesity are from the Body Mass Index of Primary 1 Children in Scotland Report conducted by NHS Scotland from the school year 2018/19. The figures include children in P1 aged 4.5-6.25 years old. Overweight and obesity are defined in the same way as for England.

Diabetes

Why it matters: Type 2 diabetes is a condition in which the body cannot process glucose (sugar) properly. Obesity is a major risk factor for the development of this condition. It was previously known as adult-onset diabetes but is being increasingly seen in children. If not managed, diabetes has serious consequences and can lead to damage of the nerves resulting in blindness, kidney damage, amputations, heart disease and stroke. Type 2 diabetes is largely preventable through having a healthy diet.

Country:
- Prevalence and deprivation – England and Wales
- Hospital admissions – England

Source: 
- Prevalence and deprivation – National Paediatrics Diabetes Audit 2018/19
- Hospital admissions – NHS Digital 2019

 

Technical note: 
- Prevalence and deprivation – Data on prevalence and deprivation are from the National Paediatric Diabetes Audit 2018/19 conducted by the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health. The report provides an analysis of data submitted by healthcare professionals caring for children and young people with diabetes in England and Wales over 2018/19 from all 175 Paediatric Diabetes Units capturing information on 30,155 children and young people up to the age of 24 who are under the care of a consultant paediatrician (of which 2.6% had type 2 diabetes). Prevalence and/or incidence rates of type 2 diabetes cannot be accurately calculated from NPDA data as an unknown number of children and young people are treated for type 2 diabetes in primary care and will therefore not be included in the paediatric audit. All that can be concluded is that there are year-on-year increases in the number of children and young people with Type 2 diabetes being managed within PDUs. Deprivation quintiles are based on IMD and WIMD.
- Hospital admissions – Data on admissions to hospital are from Hospital Episode Statistics, NHS Digital published in January 2019 in response to a media request. The data refer to Finished Admission Episodes with a primary or secondary diagnosis of type 2 diabetes broken down for the financial years 2013-14 to 2017-18 in English NHS hospitals and English NHS commissioned activity in the independent sector. A Finished Admission Episode (FAE) is the first period of admitted patient care under one consultant within one healthcare provider. Admissions do not represent the number of patients, as a person may have more than one admission within the period. Changes to the figures over time need to be interpreted in the context of improvements in data quality and coverage.

Dental Decay

Why it matters: Dental decay can be caused by consuming high sugar foods and drinks. Dental decay in children is an important public health issue as it leads to pain, distress, and time off school – and off work for parents. Tooth decay is now the number one reason for hospital admissions among young children.

Source: 
- England: Oral health survey for 5-year-old children 2019
- Scotland: National Dental Inspection Programme 2020
- Wales: Survey of five year olds oral health 2015-16
- Northern Ireland: Child Dental Health Survey 2015

 

Technical note
England – Data are from the Oral health survey for 5-year-old children 2019 conducted by Public Health England published in March 2020. These results are from the National Dental Epidemiology Programme biennial survey which took place in the academic year 2018/19. The prevalence of experience of dental decay refers to the percentage of children with one or more teeth with visually obvious dental decay experience (d3mft>0).

Wales – Data are from the Survey of five year olds oral health 2015-16 conducted by the Welsh Oral Health Information Unit published in June 2017. This survey took place in the academic year 2015/16. The prevalence of dental decay refers to the percentage of children with one or more teeth with visually obvious dental decay experience (d3mft>0).

Northern Ireland – Data are from the Child Dental Health Survey conducted by the NHS published in March 2015. This survey took place in the academic year 2013/14 and looked at children aged 5 years old. The prevalence of dental decay refers to the percentage of children with one or more teeth with visually obvious dental decay experience.

Scotland – Data are from the National Dental Inspection Programme conducted by Public Health Scotland published in October 2020. This survey took place in the academic year 2019/20 and looked at children in P1 which is children aged 4.5 years to 5.5 years. The prevalence of dental decay refers to the percentage of children with one or more teeth with visually obvious dental decay experience (d3mft>0).

Height

Why it matters: Whether children reach their full height potential is an indicator of nutritional status and the environment in which they are growing up.

Source: Broken Plate 2021

 

Technical note:
For further information on how this metric was calculated, see the Broken Plate Technical Report (Metric 9).

What Children Eat

This section of the dashboard presents data on the proportion of children meeting dietary recommendations for health and how this varies across income groups.

Consumption vs Recommendations

Why is matters: Childhood is a time of rapid growth and development. Sufficient nutrition is crucial during this time. Dietary recommendations for children give an indication of what nutrients children need to ensure optimal health and wellbeing. Exceeding the recommendations of unhealthy foods or not meeting the recommendations for healthy foods can increase the risk of poor health and the development of disease.

Country: United Kingdom

SourceChildren's Future Food Inquiry

 

Technical note:
Consumption data were calculated from analysing results of the National Diet and Nutrition Survey. Data from NDNS years 5&6 (2012/13 to 2013/14) and 7&8 (2014/15 to 2015/16) were combined to maximise sample size, applying the household income cut-offs and selecting children aged under 19 years.

We used these data to estimate:
- The proportion of children in the UK exceeding the current guidance on sugar (years 7&8 only), salt (year 5 only) and saturated fat consumption.
- The proportion of children in the UK not reaching the current guidance on fibre (years 7&8 only), fruit and vegetables and oily fish consumption.

Age ranges the data refer to are:
- Saturated fat: >5 years
- Free sugars: >2 years
- Salt: from 4 years
- Fruit and veg: > 11 years
- Fibre (AOAC): from 2 years
- Oily fish: all ages

Material Deprivation

Why is matters: Childhood is a time of rapid growth and development. Sufficient nutrition is crucial during this time. Dietary recommendations for children give an indication of what nutrients children need to ensure optimal health and wellbeing. Exceeding the recommendations of unhealthy foods or not meeting the recommendations for healthy foods can increase the risk of poor health and the development of disease.

Country: United Kingdom

Source: Household Below Average Income (HBAI) 2019/2020

 

Technical note:
Material deprivation data is from the “Households below average income” statistics published by DWP for the 2019/20 financial year. HBAI estimates are based on the Family Resources Survey which has a sample of 19,000 UK households. The after-housing costs (AHC) figures are reported. Material deprivation is an additional way of measuring living standards and refers to the self-reported inability of individuals or households to afford particular goods and activities that are typical in society at a given point in time, irrespective of whether they would choose to have these items, even if they could afford them. Full methodology can be seen here.

Food Environments

This section of the dashboard draws on evidence from The Food Foundation’s flagship annual Broken Plate report, which explores how our food environments influence what we eat through what we can afford and access.

Affordability

Why it matters: When we decide what to buy, we’re influenced by what we can afford. Many people in the UK have insufficient incomes due to low or precarious wages, as well as high outgoing costs of housing and other essentials. This means that very little money is left over after bills are paid, with the food budget often the easiest one to cut. Skipping meals or opting for the cheapest options – which are often the least healthy – has to suffice.

Country: United Kingdom

Source: Broken Plate 2021

 

Technical note:
For further information on how this metric was calculated, see the Broken Plate Technical Report (Metrics 2 and 3).

Fast-food Outlets

Why it matters: Our food choices are influenced by what’s available in our local area. Living in areas with lots of takeaway outlets is linked to the likelihood of being at a higher weight. People are understandably more likely to eat food which is convenient and readily available.

Country: England

Source: Food Environment Assessment Tool (Feat), Broken Plate 2021

Technical note:
For further information on how this metric was calculated, see the Broken Plate Technical Report (Metric 5).

Advertising

Why it matters: Advertising and marketing mean that before we even decide what to eat, we’re influenced by mass media. People are constantly confronted with advertising for less healthy foods on social media, online and on TV, and evidence shows this has a direct impact on how much we eat of these foods.

Country: United Kingdom

Source: Neilson, Broken Plate 2021

 

Technical note:
For further information on how this metric was calculated, see the Broken Plate Technical Report (Metric 1).

Food Products

Why is matters: Our choices of what to eat and what to feed our children are influenced by the options available, not all of which are healthy. Many products we routinely see on shelves are too high in fat, salt and sugar. Cereals and yogurts marketed to children are prime examples of this.

Country: United Kingdom

Source: Action on Sugar, Broken Plate 2021

 

Technical note:
For further information on how this metric was calculated, see the Broken Plate Technical Report (Metric 6).

Policy Progress

As part of the Children’s Future Food Inquiry – a year-long investigation into children’s food across the UK – we worked with children and young people to develop a Children’s Right2Food Charter. This Charter captures the key recommendations from the Inquiry on how Government policies and programmes can better support children to eat well. It sets out a plan to tackle children’s food insecurity and inequalities in obesity and protect every child’s right to food.

This section of the Dashboard takes each element of the Children’s Right2Food Charter and investigates what the governments of England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland have done to implement its recommendations.

Policy Progress

(We update this section periodically to ensure that the ratings reflect recent policy changes. If you spot any errors or missing information please let us know at shona.goudie@foodfoundation.org.uk.)

About this Dashboard

About this Dashboard

This Children’s Right2Food Dashboard offer users a comprehensive picture of children’s food across England by bringing together data from multiple sources. It particularly focusses on dietary and health inequalities.

The dashboard helps users visualise children’s consumption patterns, and their food environments that determine what children eat and have access to. It presents what policies and programmes are in place across the UK intended to support children to eat well, and how effective these are. Users can track the progress of these policies to see how effective government intervention has been on improving children’s access to food and healthy diets.

The dashboard presents a variety of indicators of diet-related health outcomes. It reveals trends over time and drills down into the status of children’s health in relation to deprivation, ethnicity and location.

Why is this needed

To our knowledge, this is the first dashboard that presents UK data across various components of children’s food policy together in one place.

As a one-stop visual platform for reliable data and statistics, the dashboard explains a complex picture of public policy for children’s food with the intention of informing evidence-based decisions to drive forward improvements in children’s health and diets.

Who is this for

The dashboard can be used by anyone interested or involved in children’s food policy. This may include:

  • Policy makers at country or local level
  • Business leaders
  • Civil Society Organisations
  • Researchers, academics and students
  • General public

How to use

The dashboard looks at five key themes related to children’s food:

1. Government Programmes
This section looks at two key children’s food policies – Healthy Start and Free School Meals – and how well these are reaching those in need.

2. Impact on children
This section looks at the prevalence of poverty and food insecurity in children, and the impact of poor diet on children’s health (diabetes, dental decay, weight and growth).

3. What children eat
This section contains information on the proportion of children meeting dietary recommendations for health and how this varies across income groups

4. Food environments
This section draws on evidence from The Food Foundation’s Broken Plate report, which explores how our food environments influence what we eat through what we can afford and access, and how we’re influenced.

5. Policy progress
This section looks at what progress each of the four nations have made on the policy recommendations in our Children’s Right2Food Charter outlining what changes Government and business need to make to improve children’s food.

The five key themes can be seen down the left-hand column of the dashboard. Within each of these themes, tabs for each subcategory can be seen along the top.

Data has been pooled from multiple sources – this includes government and public health sources, as well as The Food Foundation’s own research and reporting.

Who created this

This dashboard has been created by The Food Foundation with thanks to funding support from Guy's and St Thomas’ Charity.

For further information on the dashboard, to give us feedback on what you would like to see added to the dashboard, or let us know how you are using the data, please contact: shona.goudie@foodfoundation.org.uk

I am looking for...

Close