Millions of British families ‘can’t afford to eat healthily’ as report warns a lack of action on food poverty will condemn many children to a ‘life of ill health’
- The recommended diet is too expensive for many families, peers have warned
- And they argued unhealthy food is cheaper and easier to buy, fueling obesity
- Britons currently consume more highly processed food than anyone in Europe
Millions of British families cannot afford to eat healthily and their children risk being condemned to a life of ill health, experts have warned.
Peers claimed the way the UK manufactures, sells and consumes food is a barrier to healthy eating — and poor children are the hardest hit.
The recommended diet is too expensive for many families, according to a report by the House of Lords Food, Poverty, Health and Environment Committee.
And the group argued the system actively encourages less healthy food by making it cheaper and easier to buy for families strapped of time and money.
Brits currently consume more highly processed food — including crisps, bacon and ready meals — than people in any other nation in Europe, the report warned.
And has one of the highest obesity rates across the continent, with nearly two-thirds of adults and around a third of children known to be overweight.
The Lords Committee called for urgent action to tackle the food poverty issue that has been ‘staring us in the face for decades’.
They said the coronavirus — known to be deadlier for obese people — should be a ‘wake-up call’ for the government.
A report said the way Britain produces, manufactures, sells and consumes food is a barrier to healthy eating (PA)
Committee chairman Lord Krebs said: ‘Problems of diet and ill health have been staring us in the face for decades.
‘But successive Governments have done precious little about it. While this affects everyone, people in poverty either can’t afford enough to eat or have unhealthy diets.
NUMBER OF BRITS ON LOW INCOMES WHO CAN’T AFFORD TO BUY FOOD ‘HAS DOUBLED IN 15 YEARS’
The number of adults on low incomes who can’t afford to buy food has doubled in the past 15 years, research suggested in April.
Analysis of data showed that in 2016, 46 per cent of British adults were facing what is known as food insecurity, compared to 28 per cent in 2004.
The unemployed and disabled are the most vulnerable and can go days without eating, data showed.
Overall, nearly one in three adults who had children under the age of 16 had struggled to put food on the table.
The figures are far higher than what food banks have previously said, and if anything, are an underestimate of the true scale of the problem, the researchers said.
The study, published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, was led by King’s College London and the University of Oxford.
‘Many of Britain’s poorest families have little or no choice. They either go without food or buy unhealthy food because that’s what they can afford and get hold of.
‘The Government knows about the problem. It’s time to stop the dither and delay, endless talking and consultation, and get on with it.’
Anna Taylor, executive director of the Food Foundation, added: ‘This report shows that millions of families can’t eat well unless they have sufficient income and an environment which makes the healthy choice the easiest.
‘People can no longer wait for lengthy Government consultations which languish in Whitehall.
‘Every day that passes where the odds are stacked against families securing a healthy diet is a missed opportunity to secure a healthy future for our children.
‘One in five people in Britain live in poverty and this country has one of the highest rates of food insecurity in the European Union, accounting for 20 per cent of all severely food insecure people in Europe.’
The report added that adults and children living in the most deprived areas are about twice as likely to be obese than those living in the least deprived areas, contributing to a difference in healthy life expectancy of about 20 years.
The committee called on the government to measure how many people live with food insecurity and to analyse why, to understand the cost of a healthy diet and to incorporate this into benefits calculations, and to curb excessive advertising and promotion of unhealthy foods.
It also suggests that food initiatives for disadvantaged children, such as free school meals, must be properly funded.
And it added that an independent body should be established to oversee the implementation of a National Food Strategy that reports annually to Parliament and that the Agriculture Bill must be used to encourage the production and consumption of healthier food.
Commenting on the report, Dr Mary Bousted, joint general secretary of the National Education Union, said: ‘This report should serve as an urgent wake-up call to the Government.
‘Families should be able to access not only enough food, but also the food that they need to stay healthy.
‘With over 200,000 children pushed into poverty by the coronavirus crisis, our members know that many will go hungry unless radical steps are taken immediately.’
She added: ‘4.5million children will be trapped in poverty by Christmas – government must act now to implement a nationwide strategic plan to increase household incomes and release families from the shame and indignity of having to rely on foodbanks and food voucher schemes.’
A government spokeswoman said: ‘We currently spend a record £95billion a year on our welfare system, with a further injection of £6.5billion in response to the coronavirus outbreak.
‘We are also giving an additional £63million for local authorities to assist those most in need of food and essential supplies.
‘The upcoming National Food Strategy will look at the entire food system, from field to fork, to ensure it delivers safe, healthy, affordable food, regardless of where people live or how much they earn.’
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