1. Ministerial Introduction
We are committed to tackling inequality and improving the health of our nation. Programme for Government sets out our ambitions for a fairer, healthier Scotland that meets the needs of our people and tackles the challenges of our times.
One of these challenges is how best to ensure everyone has access to a healthy diet. Our Maternal and Infant Nutrition Framework sets out the crucial role of nutrition in the early months and years of a child's life and how important it is in achieving optimal health. A Healthier Future sets out our priorities and actions to change our food culture for all.
Through the devolution of Welfare Foods we have an additional opportunity to build on the Maternal and Infant Nutrition Framework and A Healthier Future; to make the best use of the resources available to us to meet the needs of families in Scotland.
We know that for too many families, maintaining a healthy diet is a daily challenge, with poverty and deprivation being barriers to this. Yet there is strong and growing evidence of the impact of diet in children's early years and on their longer term outcomes. Not only does a healthy and nutritious diet contribute to children's overall health and wellbeing, it also contributes to their ability to learn and the life choices they make as they grow up.
The aim of Welfare Foods is to target those who need support most, at critical points in their lives; – pregnancy, birth and early childhood.
We will ensure this continues, but we want to do more.
We want to link Welfare Foods provision to expanded and enhanced early learning and childcare to create a cohesive package of nutrition for young children. We want to make the current system much easier for families to access and use. This includes creating a new smartcard and aligning the application process with the new Best Start Grant. And we want to increase the weekly payments to families to cover the costs of ensuring their children get a healthy diet.
Giving children the best start in life is a key Government priority along with creating a healthier nation for all.
We have a unique opportunity to develop an effective Welfare Foods package that reaches children at the right time. A package that levels the playing field and makes it easier for families to make healthier choices. A package that supports children to develop lifelong eating habits that promote health and wellbeing.
We very much welcome your views on the proposals outlined, actions identified and how best to target Welfare Foods to have the greatest impact for families.
Minister for Public Health and Sport
Minister for Childcare and Early Years