Millions of UK children too poor to have a healthy diet

17 September 2018

New research from the Food Foundation has revealed that almost 4 million UK children live in households that would struggle to afford to buy enough fruit, vegetables, fish and other healthy foods to meet the official nutrition guidelines.

In order to satisfy the requirements of the government’s Eatwell guide, the poorest fifth of families would have to set aside more than 40% of their total weekly income after housing costs. This is nearly four times what the richest 20% of UK families would need to spend on food to meet the Guide.

The analysis comes as children in the UK return to school amid growing concerns over holiday hunger. The availability of free school meals during term-time will be a relief for parents who struggled to feed their children over the holidays.

The unaffordability of a healthy diet for low-income households is highlighted by higher rates of childhood obesity in deprived areas of the country. Over a quarter (26%) of Year Six children in the most deprived areas of England are obese.

There is now a call on ministers to increase welfare benefit payments and ensure healthy foods are made more widely available and affordable to low-income households, for instance through maternity food vouchers and universal free school meals.

Findings strengthen calls for a national measurement of food insecurity and the need for further investigation into children’s access to healthy food in the UK.

The Children’s Future Food Inquiry is currently gathering evidence on children’s food insecurity in the UK and will be presenting their recommendations to policy makers next year.

They are looking to hear from anyone – children, young people or adults –who has experienced or witnessed children’s food insecurity in any form. If you know children who struggle to access enough food or nutritious diets, share your story with the Inquiry portal.



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