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Food Foundation’s alarming data shows drastic decline in fruit, veg purchases by poor families

Produce Business report

The majority of British families who are struggling with food insecurity are buying fewer fruits and vegetables, according to new data released by the Food Foundation.

Nearly 60% of households cut back on fruit purchases alone in January, while 44% lessened the amount of vegetables they buy.

“It is hugely concerning to see that families experiencing food insecurity are now reporting that they are buying less fruit and veg,” said Anna Taylor, Executive Director of The Food Foundation. “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.”

The Food Foundation is calling for immediate action to be taken by government in the spring budget to reverse this trend.

“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,” Taylor said.

Nationwide, the UK has reached a crisis moment in terms of consumption of fresh produce. The Foundation conducted a separate study that showed “the amount of vegetables being bought by UK households has fallen to its lowest level in 50 years.”

“When I talk to parents, they already know what food will provide their children with the best nutrition – but so many consistently report how expensive it is to buy fruit and veg,” Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health President, Dr Camilla Kingdon, said. “Parents are often left with no option other than to buy cheaper highly processed food that is high in both salt and sugar.

More than 10% of families that are food secure are purchasing fewer fruits (and 5% fewer veg), but those numbers pale against those who are facing poverty. Those families often have children who are not getting close to the necessary five per day.

“There are fewer needs more basic than nutritious food for you and your children,” Michael Marmot, Director of the UCL Institute of Health Equity and Professor of Epidemiology and Public Health said. “In the UK in 2024, one in five households with children cannot meet that basic need. They are simply too poor; and the poorer they are the less likely they are to be able to meet that need.”

It hasn’t helped that food costs have soared 25% in the past two years against a backdrop where wages have stagnated … or just not kept pace with prices. The results are likely to be catastrophic if changes don’t happen soon.

“The resultant ill-health will most likely make health inequalities worse,” Marmot said. “Too many people in work are lowly paid, and universal credit does not pay enough to meet basic needs. A healthy society must pay attention.”

So, the Food Foundation is calling for a number of steps from UK policymakers, including:

  • Committing to the continuation of the Household Support Fund 
  • Expanding eligibility, improving uptake and increasing the value of the Healthy Start payment 
  • Increasing access to Free School Meals by extending the eligibility criteria to all children in families in receipt of Universal Credit, and auto-enrolling all eligible children, with the long term goal of providing Universal Free School Meals. 



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