five-a-day difference
Those of us operating in the food industry know all about the 5-a-day message at the heart of current healthy eating policies. In fact, we are probably so conversant with this message that it is sometimes easy to forget there are some people for whom 5-a-day is at best an empty slogan and at worst a completely alien concept.
For proof, one only needs to read the National Diet and Nutrition Survey, out this week, which demonstrated that while consumption of fruit and veg is on the rise, we are still on average eating less than three portions a day.
That's bad enough. But tucked away in the detail of the survey ­ the first since 1987 ­ is the fact that consumption of fruit and veg is lower in households in receipt of benefit than in others, and that 35% of men and 30% of women in this group consumed no fruit during the survey week. Nothing ­ no apples, bananas or glasses of OJ. That really takes some doing, but is perhaps not too surprising ­ after all, poverty, poor education and negative attitudes to healthy eating messages invariably go hand in hand.
Now, publication of this survey came a matter of days after the British Retail Consortium hosted a seminar at which researchers from the University of Southampton were able to show a similar pattern of poor diet in the Seacroft district of Leeds. Their data came to light as part of a major study to evaluate how the opening of a new food store in an area of urban deprivation would impact on the diet of residents. The good news is that the situation in Seacroft did improve once that food store ­ a Tesco superstore ­ opened for business. The bad news is that in absolute terms, the situation didn't improve by much ­ an average of just three extra portions of fruit and veg a week, leaving the people of Seacroft still way below the 5-a-day guidelines.
But given that very few people are actually hitting that recommended intake anyway, the Seacroft findings are pretty significant. If nothing else, the research suggests that supermarkets, often blamed in the past for so-called food deserts, can play a positive role in improving the diets of those living in the poorest areas of the country.