As we navigate through these times of self-isolation, it is families that have felt some of the largest shifts in eating habits with children being home schooled and, more importantly, home-fed.

Utilising insights from our in-house syndicated tracking study, Little Voices, where we speak to 550 kids aged 2 to 12 – and their parents – every other month. We have shifted our line of questioning in recent times to reflect the issues impacting on families as a result of this global pandemic.

In the current COVID-19 landscape, parents are suddenly finding themselves having to satisfy the appetites of children throughout the day, with lunches well and truly back on the agenda. Before self-isolation, only one third of parents were providing home-cooked meals more than once a week, with half of parents regularly splashing out on takeaways and ready meals. Suddenly, most households have little or no access to convenience foods and have been plunged into a world of home-cooking. This could be a bewildering time for many.

Undoubtedly, there will be a proportion of the population who will relish the opportunity to take full control of the healthy options available for their children, and others who are frantically googling the best way to create realistic Kentucky-style fried chicken to bridge the gap into the new reality.

Despite the diverse reactions towards being responsible for an additional daily meal, there does seem to be an appetite for further knowledge across the board as 7 out of 10 parents would be interested in receiving more advice on how to provide a healthier lifestyle for their family.

70% of parents don’t think there is currently enough help in their local area to encourage healthy living. A massive 3 out of 5 parents are not aware of any healthy living campaigns running specifically for them, which means that the current messaging just isn’t hitting home. As to how local authorities can help, just under half of parents say they could offer a broader range of schemes, whilst a third want better communication.

With 7 out of 10 parents interested in receiving advice, messaging will be key. It needs to be on multiple levels, underpinned by granular, community-based insights in order to drive relevant and engaging change. Often, whilst mass communication is successful in targeting a wider audience, it fails to reach some subgroups of the population who would benefit the most, for example those from low socio-economic backgrounds and some multi-ethnic communities. Granular insights are fundamental to understanding how best to communicate with different communities, for example through churches, local shops and schools, and also to knowing which messages to prioritise. Thus, platforms may be provided that can be tailored to the specific affordability and needs of all sectors of the community.

With the economic decline set to continue, families will be even more challenged financially and will be looking for ways to make their money stretch further. Therefore, now is the time to educate, the time for action, the time for change. Allowing new rituals and behaviours to develop and providing parents with the tools they both want and need during this critical period, is essential. It is up to local governments to push forward this change, underpinning communication with powerful insights to shape the future of healthy family living.

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