Families will be given support to help improve the diets of their children through a new campaign as the new statistics reveal the number of parents giving unhealthy snacks to their children has increased during the pandemic.

The multimedia Better Health campaign has been launched today to encourage families to eat better and includes a new ‘scan, swipe and swap’ feature for the NHS Food Scanner App, which provides a simple solution to help families maintain a healthier diet.

The campaign follows a record rise in obesity amongst children since the start of the pandemic, with latest data highlighting that one in four (27.7%) children of reception school age are overweight or obese; this rises to 4 in 10 (40.9%) in Year 6 (ages 10-11). Evidence[ii] shows that families purchased food more during lockdowns and this remained above normal levels even once lockdowns ended.

A new survey conducted with Netmums showed that 60% parents in the South West give their children more sugary or fatty snacks than before the pandemic and 58% of parents in the South West said they often worry about how healthy their children's snacks really are. 85% of parents in the South West said they would benefit from an App which would help them make healthier choices for their children.

Families can scan the product barcodes from their shop and the App will suggest healthier alternatives to help them make an easy swap next time they shop. The App uses a “Good Choice” badge to help signpost people to healthier food and drinks in line with the government’s dietary recommendations for added sugar, saturated fat and salt.

Professor Debbie Stark, South West Regional Director for Office for Health Improvement and Disparities (OHID) said: “There’s no doubt about it, having children stuck at home during the pandemic put families in the South West under increased pressure.

“Part of the struggle for many families has been maintaining normal eating and snacking habits while dealing with pester power from children for more unhealthier snacks.

“Of course, occasional snacks for growing kids are fine, but some snacks are better than others, and as parents we all need to find ways of ensuring our children get a nutritious balanced diet and stay at a healthy weight.

“There are surprising amounts of sugar, saturated fat and salt in the everyday food and drinks we give our kids, using the new NHS Food Scanner App is a great way to help families make quick and easy healthier swaps and make a real difference to their health.”

As part of the Government’s Obesity Strategy[iv], the department is regulating the promotion of less healthy foods to children and has dedicated £100m of funding to support children, adults and families achieve and maintain a healthier weight.

The free App can be downloaded: http://www.nhs.uk/better-health/food-scanner or search ‘Food Scanner App’.