Supermarket fruit & veg

The public back greater intervention to ensure healthy foods such as fruit & veg are affordable for all Brits

The overwhelming majority of British shoppers think healthy food is now a luxury, according to a new poll by the Food, Farming & Countryside Commission (FFCC).

Amid sticky levels of food inflation and waves of protests from UK farmers over high costs and lack of support, the FFCC survey showed the extent of Britain’s food crisis, with only 8% of people thinking healthy food is affordable for all.

Meanwhile, almost half said that financial pressures had made them cut back on the quality of the food they eat.

FFCC CEO Sue Pritchard said the situation had become “untenable”.

“Of all the elements of our everyday economy, one of the things we simply cannot manage without is healthy food. How did this basic necessity become a luxury that few can afford?

“Food is now at the centre of some of the biggest challenges this country faces and for many people, eating enough healthy food is becoming impossible,” Pritchard said.

When asked about basic rights that are essential for a fair society, 80% of the public ranked access to ‘healthy food’ as vital – second only to access to healthcare – and well above ‘home ownership’ (52%).

Ahead of a general election, the broad majority of Brits (68%) want to see the government take action to make healthy food affordable for all, the poll – in partnership with the non-profit organisation More in Common – also showed.

The survey results come just a day after a wave of farmers protested outside parliament in London on Monday, demanding government to take steps to improve the UK’s food security and protect the industry against cheap imports.

Several British agri-businesses, particularly fruit & veg growers, have folded in recent months due to high input costs and tougher international competition.

The public was “sympathetic to the challenges facing family farmers who are dealing with the impacts of climate change” and “worried about an NHS buckling under the pressure of diet-related ill health”, Pritchard said.

Sixty-two per cent of the FFCC’s respondents backed greater intervention to ensure farmers are treated fairly, while 60% wanted government to do more to protect children from unhealthy and ultra processed diets.

“While difficult – this is all fixable. And as we talk to people all around the UK, it’s clear that citizens see the problem and want the government to take control of a situation that has become untenable,” Pritchard added.

The group is launching a so-called “UK-wide food conversation”, bringing in thousands of citizens from across all four nations to take part in in-depth workshops to gather data and work on solutions to help tackle “Britain’s growing food crisis”.

Over 10 million Brits are at risk of food insecurity, new research from Sainsbury’s and Comic Relief revealed this week. Less than a fifth (two million) of people affected used the food support services available to them, mainly because of social stigma, the study showed.

Furthermore, only one in 10 British children and one third of adults are eating enough fruit & veg, according to Food Foundation data in 2023. The issue is exacerbated in low-income areas, with an estimated 1.2 million people living in ‘food deserts’ where affordable, fresh food is severely limited.

“A smart and strategic government will prioritise action across the whole food chain, from farm to fork”, Pritchard said. “And what we’re hearing from citizens is that this would be a real vote winner.”