Report highlights ‘unaffordability’ of healthy eating for the poor

Food Foundation PHE LACA Eatwell Guide affordability
07/09/2018 - 07:00
Nearly 4 million children in the UK live in households for whom a healthy diet is increasingly unaffordable, according to new analysis from independent think tank The Food Foundation.

Its report, titled ‘Affordability of the Eatwell Guide’ finds that 3.7m children live in families which earn less than £15,860 a year and would have to spend 42% of their after-housing income on food to meet the costs of the Government’s nutrition guidelines, making a healthy diet most likely unaffordable.

Comparing the estimated cost of the Public Health England (PHE) Eatwell Guide to household income in England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales shows that the poorest half of households would need to spend nearly 30% of their after-housing income on food to eat the Government’s recommended diet, compared with 12% for the richest half of households.

Dr Alison Tedstone, chief nutritionist at PHE, responded by saying: “This report suggests a healthy balanced diet in line with the Eatwell Guide costs around £6 per day for an adult – we are currently spending about the same amount eating poorly.

“Our food choices are affected by other factors such as the volume of fast food outlets on our streets and promotions of unhealthy foods in our shops, highlighting why our work to improve the nation’s diet is so important.”

School meals organisation LACA has also responded to the study, with new chair Michael Hales saying: “The Food Foundation’s report into the affordability of the UK’s Eatwell Guide is disappointing but not surprising to those who work in the food industry.

“Food prices have been steadily rising and this has the most severe impact for those on lower incomes. The report notes that for households with children in the bottom two deciles, 42% of after-housing disposable income would have to be spent to meet the Eatwell Guide costs.

“This is an unrealistic expenditure for many of these families and as such a healthy school meal during term time becomes more significant for a child’s nutrition.

“LACA members are committed to providing as many children as possible with these healthy, hot and nutritious meals, but the Government needs to take into account the rising costs of food.

“For example the cost of a Universal Infant Free School Meal is set at £2.30, a price which hasn’t increased since 2015, despite increase in food costs for caterers. We continue to press the Government to reassess this funding.”

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