Like most mums, I come under a lot of pressure from my small son to buy more of the things he thinks he likes, that his friends are having, but that are, to me, just empty nutrition. Almost all cereals aimed at young children have a high sugar content. Jamie Oliver’s campaign in recent years uncovered the hidden story behind poor school dinners and how they affect how children feel during the school day. Thankfully, my son’s school serves well cooked, nutritious food at midday but I feel that, if I gave in and allowed him to have some of these other things, he would get a huge sugar rush first thing, and then crash later in the morning, hungry and irritable, and this would affect his learning. I feel quite strongly about this but I get a lot of pressure from elsewhere too, to let my son eat what he likes. I get the impression that I am seen in some quarters as a killjoy or a spoilsport. but I feel very strongly that good nutrition will help my son at school. He’s a bright spark, I don’t want to waste that by giving him poor food choices, so we save the chocolately, high sugar stuff and other junky things for parties and the weekends.
So I was very interested to hear about Save the Children’s Food for Thought report into childhood nutrition. Have a look at the banner at the top of this post – it makes for uncomfortable reading. 4/10 children in poorer countries are so badly nourished that they have difficulty reading. A lack of nutrients in these children is stopping their bodies and brains from developing properly. Of course, the issue of whether to feed a five year old chocolately cereal for breakfast is nothing compared to malnutrition on this scale, but the results are similar, to my mind. Both sets of children have difficulty concentrating, both sets feel lethargic, both sets of bodies need good quality nutrition to be able to grow, develop and thrive. Without it, we are wasting goodness knows how many lives and how much talent. The future of the world depends upon feeding our children.
As the Food for Thought report says:
“Missing out on a nutritious diet can severely damage a child’s ability to read and write simple sentences and answer basic maths questions correctly, our new report, Food for Thought, reveals. On average, these children are 20% less literate than their peers – regardless of the amount and quality of schooling the child receives” (Save the Children).
And poor nutrition perpetuates the cycle of poverty:
“These children could earn up to 20 per cent less in adulthood, while our findings suggest that hunger could cost the global economy £82 billion a year” (Save the Children).
Here is the Britmums article on this report, and the upcoming G8 meeting where this will be discussed. There is also a link to the Enough Food for Everyone petition in the article:
Here is a direct link to the petition:
Here is a copy of the report, in PDF format, to download, if you would like to read further: