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Healthy lifestyles can transform lives

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TwentyTwenty is a charity that works with the most disadvantaged young people across Leicestershire.

One of the projects I manage is called Love4Life, where every year we support hundreds of teenage girls through challenges such as sexual exploitation, caring responsibilities, overcrowded homes and poor emotional wellbeing.

The reality of these ‘troubled families’ is they are living in dire conditions, faced with caring for a child, struggling to pay their bills and feeling like they are put under the microscope by professionals. They struggle to keep up in a world where everything is changing: new health initiatives, inflation of food prices and an increase in household bills.

These young people have no idea how to make healthy nutrition choices; they hear the phrase ‘healthy eating’ and interpret this as simply ‘eating’. The choices they are making as parents have led to an increase in social services’ observations to determine whether they provide the right environment and the right nutrients for their child.

I recently worked with a young mum who thought feeding her child a Subway sandwich on a daily basis was a balanced diet. It contained meat, some form
of salad, and looked healthy. She thought that if everyone was eating it, then surely it couldn’t be that bad? As a result, her parenting was scrutinised, the child was taken into social care and their future left in the balance.

From our experience and based on the cycle of generational learning, we know that service providers have to go back to the basics to break the patterns and
prevent situations like this happening.

At Love4Life, we sit down and work out an individual budget plan with young parents, take them to their local supermarket and bring them into the kitchen. We get young parents used to being around fresh ingredients, showing them cheaper yet tasty alternatives so that they can see how far their money can
go. We learn about their home environment, work with the appliances they have and show them how to transfer these skills into their own homes.

Our intervention means that young parents can finally understand the importance of looking after their own bodies. Once they can see the impact on how
they feel, they can then transfer these skills onto their child. That feeling of being under scrutiny is no longer so strong because the young parents are in control. Cycles are broken and new nutritional choices are made.

For TwentyTwenty and Love4Life, supporting these troubled families means starting with understanding; understanding their individual needs, their story
and what they want for their family, so they feel empowered to make the right choices for themselves.

Izzy Neale is support department manager at Twenty Twenty

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This feature is supported by Danone Nutricia Early Life Nutrition, an LGC & HSJ Integration Summit partner, as part of our integration series. For more information about next year’s summit, please contact Jenny.Vyas@emap.com.

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