Almost 30 organisations and 40 MPs have written to the government urging them to protect children and young families from the dangers of malnutrition as food prices continue to rocket in the cost of living crisis.
More than 200,000 babies, pregnant mothers and children are missing out on £53 million of nutritious food, according to the letter from Labour’s South Shields MP Emma Lewell-Buck.
Opposition MPs — as well as one Conservative, the Central Suffolk and North Ipswich MP Dan Poulter — and organisations including The Big Issue have signed the letter calling on the health secretary to automatically enrol all eligible families for the NHS Healthy Start Scheme.
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The scheme is a “lifeline” for families with young children and pregnant women, Lewell-Buck wrote, providing access to healthy fruit, vegetables, milk and vitamins which are vital to a child’s development, mental health and physical health.
Uptake across England, Wales and Northern Ireland in March of this year was just 64% of eligible families, with some areas facing uptake as low as 50%. This is more than 200,000 babies, children and pregnant mothers missing out on £53 million worth of nutritious food.
Lord Bird, founder of The Big Issue, called the Healthy Start Scheme and decreasing the amount of unhealthy food choices “a sure social and economic winner for us all”.