Food insecurity, poor dietary intake and a lack of free meal uptake amongst 16–17-year-old college students in the northeast of England, UK

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Abstract

Food insecurity in the UK has been described as a public health emergency. Although programmes exist to alleviate food insecurity for children and families, there is a lack of focus on 16–17 year olds across research, policy and practice. The current study set out to address this gap by investigating the food insecurity status and food intake of 16-17-year-olds relative to current nutritional guidelines. An online, cross-sectional survey design was utilised to collect data on self-reported food security status, food intake and access to and uptake of free college meals. Eighty-three students aged 16–17 years from two sixth form colleges based in the North East of England, UK participated. Food intake data were compared to current dietary recommendations on fruit and vegetable intake and high fat/salt/sugar foods; food intake was compared between food secure and food insecure young people. A minority of young people consumed enough fruit and vegetables to meet or exceed current 5-a-day dietary recommendations, but the majority of young people consumed two or more high fat/salt/sugar items, consumption of which was higher in food insecure young people. Additionally, despite almost half the current sample identifying as food insecure, only four young people reported being entitled to free college meals.The current study was the first to identify food insecurity and poor food intake specifically amongst 16–17 year olds in England. A lack of uptake of free college meals shows that current policy is not sufficient to address food insecurity amongst this group
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-16
Number of pages16
JournalChildren and Society
Early online date30 Aug 2022
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 30 Aug 2022

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