The research showed that 60% of food insecure households had bought less fruit and 44% had bought fewer vegetables

Food insecure families bought less fruit & veg than normal in January 2024, new data from The Food Foundation has revealed.

Statistics drawn from the organisation’s Food Security Tracker – which has regularly measured the rate of food insecurity in the UK since 2020 – showed that 60% of food insecure households were buying less fruit than they normally would, while 44% were buying fewer vegetables.

This was a much higher level than food secure households, where the decline was 11% buying less fruit and 6% buying fewer vegetables.

The charity said previous data had shown a decline in consumption for the whole nation, but its latest dataset revealed that the poorest families were being affected to a much larger extent.

“Often products with the worst health credentials that are high in fat, salt and sugar, or ultra-processed, are the cheapest option for those who are struggling to afford food to feed themselves or their families,” said Anna Taylor, executive director, The Food Foundation. “We’ve seen that for this group, fruit & veg is often the first thing to be sacrificed.”

More than half of food insecure families are also buying less fish (59%) and dairy and eggs (52%).

The Food Foundation found that in January 2024, 15% of UK households were living in food insecurity, equivalent to approximately eight million adults and three million children.

And though the overall rate of food insecurity has decreased slightly since June 2023, it remained twice as high as in 2021.

The organisation is calling for the government to ensure no one in the UK has to suffer food insecurity by ensuring that national living wage and benefit levels are set at values that take into account what is required for families to afford a healthy diet.

“Everyone should have the right to a healthy diet that will enable them to thrive and policymakers need to step up and acknowledge that this health divide simply isn’t good enough in one of the richest countries in the world,” said Taylor.

The most deprived communities suffered disproportionately from much higher rates of diet-related disease, from obesity to type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and dental decay, the organisation added.

“There are fewer needs more basic than nutritious food for you and your children,” said Michael Marmot, director of the UCL Institute of Health Equity and professor of epidemiology and public health. “In the UK in 2024, one in five households with children cannot meet that basic need.

“The resultant ill-health will most likely make health inequalities worse,” he added.

Although food inflation has decreased, prices remain high and The Food Foundation’s Basic Basket tracker shows that the price of a reasonably costed, adequately nutritious weekly basket of food has increased by 24%-26% since April 2022.

According to analysis of Assosia data for The Grocer’s Key Value Items tracker (below), some lines of fruit & veg increased by as much as 20% year on year when looking at base prices.

Cucumbers were up by 20% on average across the major multiples and blueberries saw an average price rise of 12%. 

Even frozen veg lines were affected, with frozen garden peas seeing increases of 10%.

Some lines have begun to decline year on year, such as oranges, which have decreased in price by 2% despite price hikes elsewhere.