A study commissioned by the Mayor’s Fund for London gives insights into diets of children living in poorer households. It shows that one in five children living in low-income households have a maximum of just one piece of fruit and veg a day, a study has found. A poll of 2,000 parents of children aged 4-16 has revealed those living in poorer households eating less fruit and veg, fewer meals and skipping breakfast more often.

Eighteen per cent of youngsters in homes earning £10,000 or less have a maximum of just one piece of fruit and veg on an average day, with a quarter of their parents branding the five-a-day campaign ‘unrealistic’. Children in households with an income of £40,000 or less eat an average of just three portions of fruit and vegetables a day but this rises to four a day in richer homes.

Researchers also found that three quarters of parents say their food bill increases when their children are off school, with more than one in twenty saying it increases by a quarter or more. When it comes to cooking, 27 per cent say their children have no interest in helping to prepare meals, with 36 per cent saying they get no help from their partner.

The stats emerged in a study commissioned by the Mayor’s Fund for London, which is launching a £1m Kitchen Social campaign to try and increase food and activity clubs for the capital’s children during the school holidays.

Matthew Patten, Chief Executive of the Mayors Fund for London said: “All parents want the best for their children, but it seems there are many struggling to give their children the diet they need.

“There are 220,000 London children entitled to free school meals during term time, but there is nothing to help ensure they receive nutritious meals during the 170 days that they are not at school.

“It is not acceptable in a city as prosperous as London for children from low-income or disadvantaged backgrounds to be eating a worse diet than those in more well-off homes.

“We want to try and ensure all children have access to healthy food, regardless of their background.”

The study found more than four in ten children in homes with an income of £10,000 have days where they don’t always have three meals, compared to less than one in five children in homes earning £60,000+

More than half of those in homes with an income of £10,000-£20,000 say their children often leave the house without eating anything for breakfast.

In comparison, less than a third of parents with incomes of £60,000 or more say the same.

One in five parents of low-income households say the cost of healthy food is the main reason their child’s diet isn’t as good as it should be.

But 81 per cent of all parents agree that a child’s ability to learn can be affected by their diet and what they eat.

The study found the average child has three portions of fruit and vegetables a day, with more than one in four having days where they don’t eat three full meals.

And almost one in four parents admit their children sometimes leave the house without eating breakfast.

While four in ten blame fussy eaters for their children’s diet, 13 per cent believe it could be better if healthy food was cheaper.

And one in ten parents say time is an issue as work commitments mean convenience foods are usually their only option.

Parents also admit that when preparing their child’s packed lunch, whether or not their son or daughter will eat it is their biggest consideration, with 57 per cent saying this is a major factor guiding what they put in.

Just 33 per cent think about whether or not it is healthy.

The Mayor’s Fund for London’s new Kitchen Social campaign is aiming to raise the profile of holiday hunger and the negative impact it has on young Londoners.

It has set an initial target of raising £1m to get the project off the ground and is now calling on the capital’s businesses, community groups, borough councils, foundations, charities and individuals to join its drive to provide nutritious meals and positive activities to some 50,000 children and young people in London over the next 3 years.

Matthew Patten, Chief Executive of the Mayor’s Fund for London added: “We know that it works because last year we ran several pilot projects that saw more than 4,000 healthy, balanced meals delivered to more than 600 children and young people in the school holidays.

“Additional benefits include social integration and access to group and physical activities, plus they learned about cooking and healthy eating.”

To get involved in the programme visit mayorsfundforlondon.org.uk