Around 3.7 million children in the UK are part of families who earn less than £15,860 and would have to spend 42% of their after-housing income on food to meet the costs of a diet recommended by the government’s nutrition guidelines, making a healthy diet most likely unaffordable.
This is the finding of think tank The Food Foundation from its Affordability of the Eatwell Guide report, which compares the estimated cost of the Eatwell Guide to household income in England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales. 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.
This further highlighted by higher rates of childhood obesity in deprived areas of the country. Over a quarter (26%) of Year 6 children in the most deprived areas of England are obese, but obesity affects just 11% in England’s richest communities.
“It’s crucial that a coordinated cross-government effort develops policy that accounts for the cost of its recommended diet, and creates a food system that does not consign those on lower incomes to the risk of diet-related illness,” said Anna Taylor, executive director of The Food Foundation.
Currently, half of all households in the UK don’t spend enough to meet the cost of the government’s Eatwell Guide and the findings strengthen calls for a national measurement of food insecurity and further investigation into children’s access to healthy food in the UK. The Children’s Future Food Inquiry is gathering evidence from those who have witnessed or experienced children’s food insecurity in the UK.
“A healthy diet, which we know is important for our health and development, should not be unaffordable to so many people,” said Sharon Hodgson MP, chair of the Children’s Future Food Inquiry committee. “I hope that the government will look into this issue as a matter of urgency, in order to make eating a healthy diet more affordable.”