Crates of dried goods

Nutrition and Poverty

According to The Big Issue, the UK’s rate of food poverty is among the worst in Europe. Despite being the sixth richest country in the world, millions are struggling to access the food they need. The cost of living crisis is exposing the severity of food poverty in the UK. Millions are being pushed below the breadline as food prices soar, with many struggling to feed themselves and their families.

According to The Trussell Trust, in 2021, the number of organisations providing food aid in Cornwall had jumped from 20 to 180 in just seven years. In the twelve month period from April 2022 to March 2023 over 36,000 emergency food parcels were distributed by Trussell Trust Foodbanks in Cornwall alone, over 12,000 of those were for children under the age of 16. (March 22) 

Food prices increased by 19.1 per cent in the 12 months to March 2023, the sharpest jump since August 1977.

The British Medical association states that ‘Poverty can affect the health of people at all ages. In infancy, it is associated with a low birth weight, shorter life expectancy and a higher risk of death in the first year of life. Children living in poverty are more likely to suffer from chronic diseases and diet-related problems. Twice as many people are obese in the most deprived areas of the UK than in the least deprived areas. Poverty can affect children’s cognitive development, and those living in poverty are over three times more likely to suffer from mental health problems. Poverty has long term implications on children’s ‘life chances’ and health in adulthood. Most individual long-term conditions are more than twice as common in adults from lower socio-economic groups, and mental health problems are much more prevalent.’ Health at a price – Reducing the impact of poverty 2017

Poor diet is now the biggest risk factor for preventable ill health in England, narrowly ahead of smoking. Obesity rates continue to rise: more than a quarter of people in the UK are obese and a third of 11-year-olds leave primary school overweight or obese. Hunger, and the anxiety and stress this brings, is also affecting many people in the UK. In a recent study from the Food Standards Agency, a third of young people said they often or sometimes worried that household food would run out before there was money to buy more.

The Broken Plate report 2022, shows more clearly than ever, the need for regulation to create structural change in our food system if we are going to provide a healthy future for our population. Its authoritative research presents a bleak picture of the consequences of our broken food system:

  On current trends more than 80% of children born in 2022 who survive to the age of 65 will be overweight or obese. At least one in 20 of them will already have died.  

  Obesity in children has risen by 50% in the past year alone. Children with obesity are more likely to grow up to have diet-related disease. Obesity adversely affects ability to learn in school, self-esteem and physical and mental health.  

  Poor nutrition is causing stunted growth. British five-year-olds are shorter than five-year-old populations of our European neighbours with significant height variation between poor and wealthy areas within this country.  

  Life-limiting amputations caused by the complications of diabetes linked to obesity have reached record levels, tragically impacting the quality of life of affected individuals and placing a huge burden on our healthcare system and the wider economy.  

  Healthy nutritious food is nearly three times more expensive than obesogenic unhealthy products, with more healthy foods costing an average of £8.51 for 1,000 calories compared to just £3.25 for 1,000 calories of less healthy foods. Between 2021 and 2022 healthier foods became even more expensive, increasing in price by an average of 5.1% compared with 2.5% for the least healthy foods.  

  Excess weight costs the UK approximately £74 billion every year in direct NHS costs, lost workforce productivity and reduced life expectancy. It is one of the main factors in the 20-year gap in healthy life expectancy between the richest and poorest members of society. 

  One in five households would have to spend almost half their disposable income on food to achieve the government-recommended healthy diet, leaving little money for energy and other household bills. By contrast, the wealthiest fifth of the population would need to spend just 11% of their disposable income.  

  Sustainable alternative milks made from ingredients such as oats and soya, cost up to £1.79 per litre compared to £1 for cows’ milk. They are 60% more expensive than dairy milk even though they on average create less than a third of the greenhouse gas emissions of dairy milk and use little more than half the water to produce. 

  Sandwiches with plant-based fillings cost £3.25 on average compared with £3.00 for meat and £2.85 for fish. 

  About a third (32%) of all food and soft drink advertising is still invested in promoting unhealthy foods compared with 1% spent on fruit and vegetable promotion. A further 39% is spent on brand advertising, much of which is associated with less healthy products. 

  Fast food retailers gravitate to areas of poverty: 31% of food retailers in the most deprived areas are fast food outlets compared with 22% in the least deprived areas. As fast-food consumption is closely linked with increased risk of obesity, it is likely that this higher availability of fast food is a contributing factor to socio-economic health inequalities. 

  Only one in four state schools in England is known to be meeting school food nutritional requirements, despite calls for the Government to mandate an accreditation scheme so that compliance with standards can be more regularly checked in all schools. Childhood is a critical time for development and suboptimal nutrition can have irreversible lifelong implications.  

  Breakfast cereals and yogurts are foods that parents often give their children in the belief they are relatively healthy, but only 7% of breakfast cereals and 4% of yogurts marketed for children are low in sugar. Some breakfast cereals and yoghurts supply almost the entire recommended daily allowance (RDA) of sugar in one portion: Kellogg’s Froot Loops Marshmallows 17.0g (89% of a 4–6-year-old’s maximum recommended intake); Nestlé Smarties Vanilla Flavour Yogurt 16.5g (87% of a 4-6 year old’s maximum recommended intake).     

  Unless there is action to halt the upward trend, emissions from the food system will be four times higher by 2050 than the level needed for the UK to meet its net zero target. 2022 Broken Plate report 

Many foodbanks in the county have in the past been reluctant to use fresh produce. Thankfully this is changing with the vast majority recognising not only the huge benefits nutritionally, but also the positive responses for end users.

Gleaning Cornwall ensures that the high cost of fresh veg is not a barrier to low income families. By ensuring that we only harvest good quality produce we ensure freshness and peak nutritional value. We always endeavour to harvest and deliver to our distribution hubs on the same day, thanks to our dedicated network of volunteer drivers. This means that right across the county, from Lands End to Bude and Saltash, gleaned produce goes from field to plate within 12 hours

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