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Leading academic receives prestigious children's food award

13th January 2017

A leading academic at Northumbria University, Newcastle has received a prestigious award for her pioneering work into school breakfast clubs and holiday hunger.

Professor Greta Defeyter, Associate Pro Vice-Chancellor, Strategic Planning & Engagement, Health and Life Sciences at Northumbria has received a Children's Food Heroes Award, run by Sustain - an alliance for better food and farming.

Beating off tough competition, Greta received the award in the Research/Education category in recognition of her work in researching, mapping and evaluating breakfast clubs, summer feeding schemes and other initiatives to tackle holiday hunger and food poverty in the UK.

Greta and her colleagues within ‘Healthy Living' at the University have been instrumental in supporting hundreds of school breakfast clubs across the UK resulting in a measurable increase in children's educational attainment and quality of life. Research findings on school breakfast clubs have been translated into an on-line training programme that has up-skilled teachers, governors, NHS public health advisors and parent volunteers. A related programme of research focusses on the phenomenon of ‘holiday hunger' and this research is already informing policy makers and organisations involved in the delivery of such interventions.

The 2016 Children's Food Heroes awards are only given to those who have made a significant contribution towards helping Children's Food Campaign achieve its goals.

Commenting on her achievement, Greta said: "It's a real honour and a huge accolade to receive the award and I'm absolutely delighted. It is incredibly rewarding to know that the research we are conducting is having such a positive impact on children's lives and that our research findings are being used to inform and evaluate school holiday interventions and school breakfast clubs.

Children are our future and it's vitally important they are well nourished and have the best chances in life. Food has a key role to play in that.

Greta regularly advises government, industry and academia on the importance of school breakfast clubs, and holiday interventions and is a member of several advisory panels including the All Party Parliamentary Group on School Food.

The Children's Food Heroes Awards have run annually since 2013 and are given to those who have stood out in their efforts to champion children's rights, parent power, best practices and government action to improve the food environment children grow up. Sustain is the alliance for better food and farming advocates food and agriculture policies and practices that enhance the health and welfare of people and animals, improve the working and living environment, enrich society and culture and promote equity.

The aims of Sustain's Children's Food Campaign are to improve children's dietary health, by improving the food available and marketed in our schools, on our high streets, in our communities, and throughout society.

Malcolm Clark, Co-ordinator of the Children's Food Campaign at Sustain, said: "I would like to congratulate Greta on being a very worthy winner of a Children's Food Heroes Award. Competition is very high for in these prestigious awards with other winners including the former Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne MP and current Chancellor Phillip Hammond MP for including a sugary drinks tax in the budget. Together with her team Greta has led the way in researching, mapping and evaluating breakfast clubs, summer feeding schemes and other initiatives to tackle holiday hunger and food poverty in the UK." 

Sustain is a charity and its members include the British Association for the Study of Community Dentistry, the Association of School Health Education Co-ordinators, the British Dietetic Association, Diabetes UK, the Faculty of Public Health and the National Farmers' Retail and Markets Association.

Previous winners of Children's Food Campaign Awards have included Jamie Oliver.

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