The issues raised around food poverty by Dan Crossley last week in his Saturday Essay really hit a nerve with me. It’s embarrassing to think that many people in the UK struggle to make ends meet and afford to eat quality food every day.
Aside from the odd token gesture, few brands and businesses seem to be working together to properly address the situation and contribute towards making life better and healthier for the less affluent among us.
Why is that? One view is that poorer families and individuals choose what to spend their money on and therefore make choices to prioritise other things. Is it therefore self-inflicted? Poorer consumers will not be as lucrative as long-term customers for businesses, so in the minds of a marketer does this make them an unsuitable target?
The fact remains that these people are UK consumers. There is a moral duty on the part of businesses that benefit from the profits generated by the mainstream, more affluent masses to give something back to help the whole of the nation, not just the more privileged, get fed healthily. I was talking to Matthew Reed, CEO of The Children’s Society, last week and hearing about their Childhood Wellbeing report and how mums are having to choose between feeding one child or another, or not feeding themselves for two days because they have no money to buy food. As a mum, I find that unthinkable.
” Over 350,000 people turned to food banks for help in 2013”
Consider some facts. One in five people in the UK live below the poverty line and the poorest single adult households spend just £22.30 per week on food and non-alcoholic drink. On average, just £2.10 per person per day is spent on groceries by low-income families. Frighteningly, it is also estimated that three million people are malnourished in the UK at any one time.
Thank goodness for charities such as The Trussell Trust - the biggest provider of food banks in the UK. It recently reported that over 350,000 people turned to their food banks for help in 2013, triple the number in 2012. Where would people be without them?
What to do? Three of the biggest challenges are that the cheapest and most convenient foods are often the least healthy; the healthiest foods are often the most expensive; and making food from scratch takes more time and knowledge than people have.
The industry is currently exacerbating rather than addressing the problem. Making unhealthy foods the cheapest is a lose-lose scenario long term. It’s going to take education, accessibility, quality and good nutrition to really make a difference. We need a new model rather than quick fixes.
Claire Nuttall is founding partner of Thrive