June 16, 2022 5.00 pm

‘How can we tackle childhood obesity when families rely on food banks?’

Childhood obesity jumped during the pandemic

By Local Democracy Reporter

It will be even harder to tackle rising childhood obesity in Lincolnshire as families struggle to put food on the table, a councillor has warned.

A recent report revealed an alarming jump in overweight children nationally since the pandemic, with the county likely to be worse than average.

Lincolnshire County Council’s Health and Wellbeing Board discussed how the rise could escalate as people struggle with the cost of living crisis.

Councillor Richard Wright said: “We know that childhood obesity is often linked to deprivation.

“With real-term wages falling at the fastest rate against inflation for ten years, with more people using food banks and making the choice between cheap food rather than good food, what can we do about that?

“You can give them as much advice as possible, but they might not be able to afford to eat what you want them to eat.”

The council’s public health consultant Andy Fox responded: “Big economic changes and inflation obviously have the largest effect, but those aren’t levers that we can pull.

“We try and make the biggest difference with the resources that we have. The issue becomes cost-effectiveness – what gets the biggest bang for your buck?

In Lincolnshire, almost a quarter of children in reception at school are classed as overweight or obese.

“We don’t know what changes the next couple of years will bring – will the changes from Covid embed rather than amend? We could see worse figures next year, even if the service is effective.”

A range of healthy eating and living programmes are planned for this summer to start reversing the trend.

Mr Fox also confirmed that areas with the highest rates of childhood obesity, such as Boston, would be targeted the most.

Councillor John Turner described the statistics as “hugely worrying for the health of our young people”.

The rise in childhood obesity in 2020/21 was five times the normal annual increase and is “cause for serious concern”, health bosses say.

Obesity rates in Year 6 boys jumped 5.6%, and 3.3% in Year 6 girls.

Although figures weren’t available for Lincolnshire during this time, it’s feared that the rise is even worse due to the area’s existing health problems.

A two-year pilot of the Child & Family Weight Management Service will be delivered from this summer, with £674,000 of funding.

The Holidays Activities and Food programme for under 11s on free-school-meals will also be expanded to promote physical activity and healthy eating.