One of the major effects of the current state of lockdown and quarantine on parents has been that children have been staying at home rather than going into school. While for some this has been a welcome opportunity to spend more time with their young ones, there have been numerous challenges with children being at home for so long, including adjusting to home-schooling, finding a variety of activities to educate stimulate and entertain the children, and juggling work without childcare.
It has also posed a very new challenge in terms of nutrition, seen clearly in the food that kids are eating, and how parents have worked to overcome these issues.
One of the noticeable consequences has been with children no longer being able to receive lunches and breakfasts at school, due to the school shutdowns. Those parents that previously relied on their kids having those meals at school now have to find the time and resources to prepare these meals – sometimes a difficult task. In an extreme set of circumstances, some children just go without proper access to essential meals completely during these difficult times. Statistics portray a very grim prediction of the situation, with almost a full fifth of children going hungry during the lockdown.
Schools and their canteens being shut has also had the effect of removing that all-important teacher guidance from the kids. The strict regime in school that enforces and controls nutritional values no longer applies when the kids aren’t in school anymore. On top of this, school children can often be influenced heavily by their peers and encouraged to try new foods or finish all the food from their plate. At home, it can be a very different story. There could be tricky issues with picky eaters getting very fussy about the food that their parents provide for them. And without the authoritative teacher figures present, it can be the perfect opportunity to make a fuss, creating possible tensions at mealtimes and general family stress.
There are some parents no longer always being able to get fresh food from supermarkets. Perhaps their new schedule doesn’t give time for it, perhaps their own health means they have to self-isolate, perhaps it’s simply that their new childcare responsibilities mean that leaving the house for an extended period of time to pop to the shops is no longer a possibility.
Regardless, lack of fresh food for these families, particularly fresh fruit and vegetables, will have an adverse effect on a child’s nutrition. There has been some success with businesses and volunteers working together to make sure that those who cannot leave the house to go shopping are still able to access fresh and healthy products. This has been through new delivery options being tested by large supermarkets and even independent shops, and through fantastic volunteers who are making the trips that others are unable to.
The loss of any regular routine has been a struggle for a significant number of households, especially those of us who are no longer working in the way we did prior to the lockdown. This change in routine has been especially tough for families with children just trying their best to adjust to a new normal.
With regards to food intake, there’s been a sharp rise in binge eating and excessive snacking in children who perhaps have lost their regular meal routines due to this disruption. Parents have of course been doing their best to keep a routine going of some kind, but between work, childcare, and all the other responsibilities that come with living in these complicated times, it’s not always possible.
It isn’t all doom and gloom though, as support for families and children exists in a variety of different forms. The nation has pulled together in extraordinary ways to support the whole community during these unprecedented times. As mentioned, the fantastic work of volunteers and small businesses is supporting many to secure the essentials. We must also recognise the positive impact that food banks are having on the situations of families in need.
Organisations across the country are working hard to supply much-needed food and supplies to families and individuals in need, and we thank them for the work that they are doing. It is very much a team effort to get through this crisis, and we are very happy to see that teams across the nations are doing their part to support children and parents struggling in these times.
For nutritional advice and support during these times, download the Mini Mealtimes app now available on iOS & Android.