Scotland and the US link up to tackle child food poverty

Wed, 10 Mar 2021 11:10:00 GMT
Delegates from the US and Scotland will share their learning
Delegates from the US and Scotland will share their learning

Delegates from Scotland and America will today discuss the impact of COVID-19 on tackling child food poverty at a UK/US webinar to mark International School Meals Day.

The event, hosted by the Scottish Poverty and Inequality Research Unit at Glasgow Caledonian University and supported by the Poverty and Inequality Commission, will explore how school meal provision can increase food security and promote healthy eating habits in the wake of the pandemic. 

International Actions on School Meals in Times of Crisis will outline how the US and Scotland have shared a similar approach to the provision of school meals for over a decade.

Cabinet Secretary for Education John Swinney will deliver a pre-recorded address to the assembled audience of hundreds of American and Scottish delegates today, including Cindy Long, the senior US government administrator leading federal child nutrition programmes in America. 

Other leading national and local education and nutrition figures from both countries will also share their experience delivering vital meals.

Professor John McKendrick, co-director of SPIRU at GCU, said: “School food plays a critical role in tackling child food poverty in Scotland. There are many examples of innovative practice in Scottish schools, and there is political will to strengthen the service but challenges remain. 

"Uptake of lunchtime meals is not as high as we would like and there is uncertainty about the long-term impact of COVID-19 on school dining. Scotland aspires to be the best small country in the world. To be a world leader in school dining, we need to showcase what works well and learn from others."

Cindy Long, Child Nutrition Programs Deputy Administrator at the US Department of Agriculture, said: “The United States and Scotland have a long history of working together on this vital issue. 

"International School Meals Day was borne out of an initiative between our two governments and together we can set a positive example to nations across the world on the importance of school meal provision.

"There is much we can learn from each other and I look forward to further opportunities to share knowledge and best practice.”

The event comes at a crucial time, with the World Food Program’s latest report, The State of School Feeding Worldwide, highlighting the COVID-19 pandemic’s effect on the loss of access to school meals for millions of vulnerable children across the globe.

Cabinet Secretary for Education John Swinney MSP said: “The availability of balanced and nutritious food as part of the school day can play an important part in supporting the health and wellbeing of our children and young people. 

"This international seminar is an opportunity to look at school food through the lens of the pandemic and to share our plans and learning on the role it will play during our recovery from the crisis.”

Lindsay Graham, Commissioner with the Poverty and Inequality Commission, added: “The pandemic has highlighted similar challenges faced by school meal providers on both sides of the Atlantic. 

"The similarity of both our nations legislative aims to improve children’s health and wellbeing through good nutrition has never been more important than it is today. So, it is a timely opportunity for information sharing regarding the future of this vital community service especially given the pressures on families and schools.” ‚Äč