Food and Healthy Weight: cross cutting theme

The Food and Healthy Weight theme brings together people with an interest or expertise in enhancing food systems and promoting environments to support activity and play in children and families. This is a cross cutting theme within ActEarly and includes embedded projects within Healthy Livelihoods, Healthy Places and Healthy Learning.

All of the projects in this theme are designed to change policy or practice to provide opportunities for all families to eat healthy affordable food and to be active in safe and attractive environments.  Unfortunately, availability and access to both of these depend on your circumstances and COVID-19 has exposed these differences.

We work in partnership with community organisations and with local government in both Bradford and Tower Hamlets to provide expertise in intervention design and evaluation.  A key part of this is to explore factors which influence eating and activity which are specific and relevant to the population, such as access to affordable food, marketing unhealthy food, school food environments or quality of green spaces.

Projects and progress to date include:

CONNECTS-Food project: Whole school approaches to food

This project is engaging with another UKPRP programme -The GENIUS School Food Programme to develop resources for primary schools to consider food across the whole school day to support children to make healthy food choices. These include, offering consistency in the quality of foods provided, eating culture, food education, and use of food to learn. This will be achieved by (1) partnering with key people (stakeholders) including head teachers, teachers, staff, children, parents, school governors, and government representatives; (2) hosting workshops with stakeholders to get a rich picture of all of the factors that influence food choice in the school day; (3) developing resources (an implementation intervention) alongside stakeholders; and (4) exploring whether these can be feasible used by schools across the UK.

Community food assets evaluation

This work is done in partnership between the ActEarly team and local authorities in Bradford and Tower Hamlets.  It explores the range, characteristics and accessibility of food aid provision in both areas and assesses how the availability of food aid has changed in response to COVID-19.  Findings include recommendations to support local government decision making, including  the relationship between the distribution of food assets and the ability of services to cater to dietary and cultural requirements.

Engaging with local government to support decision making

Members of the ActEarly research team support local governments in Bradford and Tower Hamlets via collaboration on research projects, sharing of evidence and through more formal engagement with strategy development.  Examples of these within the Food and Healthy Weights theme include the Bradford Food Strategy, the Tower Hamlets Childhood Obesity Plan and the Bradford Living Well project. Through an award offered from the National Institute of Health Research to Dr Bryant is able to spend time working within Bradford Metropolitan District Council to support the implementation and evaluation of school food projects, provide expertise to Food Strategy plans and upskill staff in research methods.

Fresh streets

In partnership with ActEarly, Bradford Metropolitan District council and Tower Hamlets council are both taking part in the evaluation of the Fresh Streets project, led by Dr Clare Relton based in Queen Mary University of London and funded by the National Institute of Health Research. This new scheme offers weekly vouchers for fresh fruit and vegetables plus vegetable based recipes and nutritional information to every household in streets across the UK. Vouchers are redeemable with local independent suppliers of fresh fruit and vegetables (not supermarkets) and can be shared with others.

Food systems

ActEarly works in partnership with multiple projects which take a systems based approach to support health and well-being, including those with a focus on food systems.  These include two new exciting projects; one aiming to transform food systems across a whole region led by Professor Bob Doherty and the other, optimising food systems across all primary schools, led by Dr Maria Bryant (CONNECTS). In addition, and through partnership with Professor Amir Sharif at the University of Bradford, we will map what the Bradford Food system looks like.  This work will identify areas within the system that can be improved to best support healthy food environments for families and children.


The Bradford Sport England Local Delivery Pilot (LDP), Join Us: Move. Play (JU:MP) is taking an evidence-based whole system approach to increasing physical activity for children and young people aged five to 14. The project is located within the North of Bradford, working with communities from some of the most deprived areas and with some of the lowest levels of physical activity within the UK. ActEarly has supported the design of the evaluation of the JU:MP programme- a controlled trial to assess the effect of JU:MP compared to control areas beyond the Bradford region, for primary aged children. This will be supported by looking at data from the Born in Bradford (BiB) cohort study to help understand the impact of the JU:MP programme over a longer period of time, involving children in secondary school.

For more information please contact Dr Maria Bryant, Theme Lead