Poorest families cannot afford a healthy diet

Low income families would need to spend almost half of their after-housing income on food in order to eat a healthy diet, new research has found.

Analysis by the Food Foundation compared the estimated cost of Public Health England’s (PHE) Eatwell Guide with household income. It found that the bottom 20% of families would have to spend 42% of their after-housing income on food to eat the government’s recommended diet, almost four times more than the richest 20% of households.

It means that the 3.7 million children in the UK living in households earning less than £15,860 are unlikely to be unable to afford a healthy diet as defined by the government, according to the think tank.

Most adults and children in the UK do not currently meet requirements for a nutritious diet, eating too much sugar, saturated fat and salt, and failing to meet recommendations for fruit and vegetable and oily fish consumption. Lower income households have been shown to consume significantly less fruit and vegetables than those on a higher income.

The report highlighted that widening inequality is leading to higher rates of childhood obesity in deprived areas of the UK with 26% of children in Year 6 being obese compared to 11% in England’s richest communities.

The Food Foundation said the results strengthen calls for a national measurement of food insecurity and the need for further investigation into children’s access to healthy food in the UK led by the Children’s Future Food Inquiry.

“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.

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