Outcome B: Healthier Diets

“Reduced levels of diet related ill health.”

What we are trying to do

To improve the health of Lambeth residents through increased awareness of healthy food and cooking, improving skills, fostering positive attitudes from a young age and working with schools and organisations supporting members of the community to have a healthier relationship with food.

Why we are trying to do it

Impact on health

Eating a poor diet causes an average reduction in life expectancy or a life lived without disability by 30%. Poor diet contributes to half of the deaths from Coronary Heart Disease, a third of deaths from cancer and increased numbers of strokes, fractures in the elderly, childhood disease, dental caries and mental health problems.
Lambeth has a higher than average number of deaths from diet related conditions.
A study of Lambeth mothers showed that most exceeded the recommended amounts of carbohydrates and meats but did not reach the recommended amounts of fruit and vegetables.
It is estimated that 190 children in Lambeth suffer from rickets – a severe growth consequence of vitamin D deficiency. It is estimated 2,496 Lambeth children aged 0-4 years old are vitamin D deficient.
Obesity and being overweight are conditions common in the UK and Lambeth. 51.8% of adults, 39.3% of 10-11 year olds and 23.5% of 4-5 year olds are overweight or obese. Being overweight or obese cause poor health and increases the risk of musculoskeletal problems, diabetes, heart disease and cancers.

Awareness of the link between food and health

Street surveys and workshops showed that there is a basic understanding of what constitutes a healthy diet. However only 4% of people surveyed understood the importance of eating wholegrain food and only 13% the importance of water as part of a healthy diet. Residents requested information on shopping and cooking a healthy diet from scratch. They suggested that a handbook of what is ok to eat would be useful.

Food from Public Sector organisations

For many people the only hot and nutritious meal they receive on a day to day basis are the meals they receive in public sector organisations such as schools, hospitals and care homes. This is more common with children living in poverty and the elderly. It is therefore important to ensure the nutritional standards of these meals and to use the public sector to promote healthy eating.

The elderly and food

It is estimated that 90,000 people aged over 65 in London are malnourished. This is caused not only by low income but also by poor health and social isolation. Cheaper food and ready meals tend to contain high levels of fat, salt and sugar. With a high proportion of the elderly population already suffering from heart disease and diabetes, this worsens the situation.
Lambeth intends to increase the number of lunch clubs and community food activities for older people. Lunch clubs help to keep older people independent in the community but they charge an average of £3.44 per meal provided.

Schools and food

Survey research shows that children in 8% of London families have had to skip meals because their families could not afford food. 40% of children living in London live in poverty, making them vulnerable to food poverty and a survey of London school teachers found that 60% have fed children from their own pocket. Often, the cheap and convenient foods bought by poorer families tend to be of lower nutritional value and higher in unhealthy fats. Child food poverty has an impact on a child’s growth, development, health, school performance and therefore chances in life.
23% of parents say that their child’s biggest meal of the day is their school lunch. It would be beneficial to encourage the take-up of schools meals as only 1% of packed lunches are able to meet the same nutritional requirements as canteen lunches.
Although the government provides free school meals to children living in poverty, 1.2 million UK children who are living in poverty do not take up free school meals. Reasons for this include unattractiveness of school dinners, stigma associated with free meals and being forced to use the canteen at a different time or to sit separately from friends.
Breakfast clubs have been introduced to tackle the issue of children arriving to school hungry, a problem that over 95% of teachers have reported. A breakfast club can cost between £2,000 – £10,000 a year to run. The Department for Education has pledged to provide £3.15million for breakfast in schools over the next two years.
As of this year, cooking will become a compulsory part of the school curriculum with requirements to learn about healthy eating and seasonal ingredients.

What you can do