Researchers at the University of Queensland have found that children in disadvantaged communities often go hungry when they attend early childhood education and childcare.
UQ Laureate Fellow Professor Karen Thorpe of the Queensland Brain Institute led a study of more than 900 childcare centers across Queensland, which found that people in disadvantaged communities, where food insecurity was highest, were less likely to provide meals to children than those in more affluent areas.
“We found that only 65 percent of daycare centers in rural and remote areas provide food,” said Professor Thorpe.
“Often it’s all about keeping costs down, with kids’ lunch services charging up to $140 a day, compared to just $60 a day for those without meals.”
Professor Thorpe said some centers in low-income areas with a lot of market competition did provide food without increasing fees.
“But a subsequent study found that the amount and quality of food served to the children was inadequate,” she said.
“A report released earlier this year by the United Workers Union found that some childcare providers had a daily food budget of just 65 cents per child.”
Professor Thorpe said some children were starving at the most important point in their early learning journey.
“We know that without adequate nutrition it is more difficult for children to learn and regulate their behavior,” she said.
“For children who live in a disadvantaged situation, it is an extra blow to then receive poor quality food at daycare.”
Professor Thorpe said the study found that some families living below the poverty line simply couldn’t afford enough food for their children, or if they did, it was of poor quality.
“We found that in some daycare centers the staff fed their own food to the children when they were struggling financially themselves,” she said.
Professor Thorpe said providing high quality food in Queensland’s most deprived communities should be a public health priority.
“It would mean that children can learn and follow a positive trajectory in health and education,” she said.
“A lot is currently being invested in early childhood care, but you have to spend the money wisely.
“You cannot deliver a high-quality education program if the children and staff are starving.”
The study is published in Social Sciences and Medicine.
Karen Thorpe et al, Meal provision in early childhood education and care programmes: association with geographic disadvantage, social disadvantage, cost and market competition in an Australian population, Social Sciences and Medicine (2022). DOI: 10.116/j.socscimed.2022.115317
Quote: Underprivileged children miss meals in daycare (2022, October 21) retrieved October 21, 2022 from https://phys.org/news/2022-10-disadvantaged-children-meals-childcare.html
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