Calls for funding as UK parents, nurseries face rising food costs.

Parents and nurseries in the U.K. are struggling to provide nutritious meals for children as food costs rise, according to a survey of over 500 childcare providers.

The Early Years Alliance and the London Early Years Foundation shared with the British daily The Guardian that nearly one in 10 childcare providers said they had turned to food charities for help. Nearly 62% said they had been forced to use cheaper ingredients in their meals.

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As the cost of living crisis affects the affordability of childcare for many families, 56% of providers said they had had to pass on the costs to parents, while 49% of providers also said they had seen signs of food insecurity among families in their settings.

Parents in the U.K. pay more for nursery fees than for their mortgages or rent, with the average cost of a full-time nursery place for a child under 2 being 14,000 pounds ($17,327).

Although some poorer households in England receive 15 hours of free childcare for 2-year-olds and all households receive 15 hours for 3- and 4-year-olds, the rates given for free hours are deemed insufficient by providers.

The survey also found that children or families in about half of the settings were showing signs of food insecurity.

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Stella Freebody, manager of Oak Tree Nursery in Ilfracombe, Devon, said the cost of living crisis had put huge pressure on the nursery and forced menus to change to keep costs down.

June O’Sullivan, head of the London Early Years Foundation, said providers were watching a “gulf grow between stagnant government funding and increasing costs.”

Labour MP Emma Lewell-Buck is calling for the expansion of the Healthy Start scheme to all families on universal credit and increasing its value in line with inflation.

A spokesperson for the Department of Education said the government was looking into improving the cost, flexibility and availability of childcare and investing in staff training.

According to The Guardian, the “incredibly concerning” findings of the survey called for ministers to provide nurseries with more funds.


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